Multi-stage fitness test
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The multi-stage fitness test, also known as the PACER test or PACER (Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run), the 20 m Shuttle Run Test (20 m SRT), or the beep test, is a running test used to estimate an athlete's aerobic capacity (VO2 max). In the test, athletes must run from one line to another before a timed beep. Athletes must continue running back and forth, each time reaching the line before the next beep. Once one can no longer run, the test is over and the number of laps is recorded. As the test continues, the time between beeps gets shorter.
The test is used by sporting organizations around the world along with schools, militaries, and others interested in gauging one's cardiovascular endurance, an important component of overall physical fitness.. The multi-stage fitness test is part of the most applied health-related fitness test batteries for children and adolescents, such as Eurofit, Alpha-fit, FitnessGram, PREFIT and ASSOFTB.
The multi-stage fitness test was first described by Luc Léger with the original 1-minute protocol, which starts at a speed of 8.5 km/h, and increases by 0.5 km/h each minute. Other variations of the test have also been developed, where the protocol starts at a speed of 8.0 km/h and with either 1 or 2-minute stages, but the original protocol is nevertheless recommended. The test appears to encourage maximal effort by children, and the prediction of aerobic capacity from its results is valid for overweight and obese children, as well as those of normal weight.
- The beeps help young athletes develop a sense of pace
- There is no embarrassment of having everyone wait for the slowest person to finish or people not finishing at all
- Inexperienced runners often complete a race and still have energy left. With the PACER, runners continue until they have no energy remaining, ensuring scores reflect cardiovascular fitness over pacing abilities.
- Even if the distance ultimately completed is similar, psychological studies indicate people find it less daunting to be told to "run as much as you can" as opposed to "run ___ distance." Making fitness more appealing is important because, after graduation, leading a healthy lifestyle ultimately becomes a matter of personal choice.
[METs] = VO2max / 3.5
The test involves running continuously between two points that are 20 m apart from side to side (or 15 m in small gyms). The runs are synchronized with a pre-recorded audio tape, CD or computer software, which plays beeps at set intervals. As the test proceeds, the interval between each successive beep decreases, forcing the athletes to increase their speed over the course of the test until it is impossible to keep in sync with the recording (or, on extremely rare occasions, until the athlete completes the test). Many people who test people using the multi-stage fitness test allow one level to beep before the person makes the line, but some middle and grade schools allow two missed laps. If the person being tested does not make the next interval, the most recent level they completed is their final score.
The recording is typically structured into 25 'levels', each lasting around 62 s. Usually, the interval of beeps is calculated as requiring a speed at the start of 8.5 km/h (see format table), increasing by 0.5 km/h with each level thereafter. The progression from one level to the next is signaled by 3 quick beeps. The highest level attained before failing to keep up is recorded as the score for that test.
The original beep test was initially available on audio tape format. A problem with the tape was that it could stretch over time, or the tape player would play at inconsistent speed, making the timing between beeps inaccurate. Most versions of the tape had a one-minute recorded interval for calibrating the tape and tape player. Digital audio formats replaced the tapes, but checks were still required on the CD/player due to some tone controls possibly affecting the playback speed.
Inexpensive beep test software is now popular due to modern electronic devices having excellent and consistent timing accuracy. The software generally runs on a portable electronic computer such as a tablet, phone or laptop, making the test easy to organise for teams, and also tracks player fitness over a season. The contemporary accepted format starts at 8.5 km/h with levels of 1 minute as described in Leger's and Lambert's paper of 1988. A highly convenient and comprehensive software, called BeepShuttle Junior has recently been created in order to improve the administration of the test, as well as the evaluation of its results. The software was presented at the 12th FIEP European Congress in Luxembourg in September 2017, and then published in the Journal of Advanced Sport Technology, in 2018. BeepShuttle Junior provides immediate assessment of cardiorespiratory fitness by using audio and visual signals, and calculates and assesses results (such as VO2max and percentile scores) of children and adolescents in accordance with comprehensive international norms. In addition, the software exports its results in files, which are compatible with Excel for further analyses, and can be applied for health and fitness screening, profiling, monitoring and surveillance in schools and sports clubs.
Some versions of the test include background music. Coaches may also play their own music as the beeps are going.
|Expected male age
to complete level
|Expected female age|
to complete level
|Organization||Type of organization||Country||Minimum level attained||Comments|
|Western Australian Rugby Union Referees||Sport||Australia||10.5 (Premier Grade), 9.5 (Reserve Grade)|
|Rugby Football referee||Sport||England (RFU)||10.4 for development squads, 12+ for elite referees||Source: |
|British Army||Military||UK||10.2 (male), 8.1 (female)|
|Royal Air Force||Military||UK||9.10 (male), 7.2 (female)|
|Royal Air Force Regiment||Military||UK||11.7 (male)|
|Royal Marines||Military||UK||10.5||aim marine 13+, aim officer 15+|
|Airservices Australia||Aviation rescue and fire fighting||Australia||9.6|
|Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Melbourne)||Fire/emergency response||Australia||9.6||Source: |
|Royal Military College of Canada||Military||Canada||9.5 (male), 7.5 (female)||Source: |
|Police Scotland||Police||UK||5.4||15 Metre shuttle only|
|South Australia Police||Police||Australia||9.04 (male), 6.10 (female)||Age 18-29. Varies by age |
|Queensland Fire and Rescue Service||Fire/emergency response||Australia||8.7||Source: |
|Western Australia Police||Police||Australia||8.1 to 10.1+ (male), 6.1 to 7.1 (female)||Source: |
|Western Australia Fire & Rescue Service||Fire||Australia||9.6 +||Source: |
|Australian Army||Military||Australia||7.5||Preliminary Fitness Test Standard required prior to enlistment.|
|Australian Special Forces||Military||Australia||10.1||Preliminary Fitness Test Standard required prior to direct recruitment scheme.|
|New Zealand Army||Military||New Zealand||9.2 (male); 7.3 (female)||Source: |
|Royal New Zealand Navy||Military||New Zealand||7.10 (male); 5.9 (female)||Source: |
|Royal New Zealand Air Force||Military||New Zealand||7.10 (male); 5.9 (female)||Source: |
|French Foreign Legion||Military||France||7||Source: |
|1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment||Military||France||10||Source:  terre/le-niveau-divisionnaire/commandement-des-forces-speciales-terre/1er-regiment-de-parachutistes-d-infanterie-de-marine]|
|Royal Australian Navy||Military||Australia||6.1||Source: |
|Royal Australian Air Force||Military||Australia||6.5||Source: |
|Police officer||Police||France||6.5||Source: |
|Australian Federal Police||Police||Australia||6.5||Source: |
|Calgary Police Service||Police||Canada||7.0||Source: |
|Edmonton Police Service||Police||Canada||7.0||Source: |
|Ontario Provincial Police||Police||Canada||7.0||Source: |
|Queensland Police Service||Police||Australia||6.3 to 9.4 (male), 5.1 to 7.5 (female)||Source: |
|Canadian Forces||Military||Canada||6.0 (male), 4.0 (female) (under 35)||Replaced in 2013 by FORCE Evaluation|
|Canadian Special Operations Regiment||Military||Canada||9-10 for passing score, 11-12 for average score, 13+ for highest score||Source:  Found on page 22|
|England and Wales||Police||UK||5.4 (general roles) to 10.5||Source: |
|Victoria Police||Police||Australia||5.1||All ages (updated 23/7/2012 to new standards)|
|New South Wales Police Force||Police||Australia||7.1||7.1 initial entry, various specialist units have higher requirements. Source: |
|Royal Canadian Air Cadets| Paramilitary Youth Program||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Royal Canadian Army Cadets| Paramilitary Youth Program||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Royal Canadian Sea Cadets||Paramilitary Youth Program||Canada||Depends on age||Part of the new 'Fitness and Incentive' program. Used to track improvements in fitness level. Fitness badges may be earned.|
|Blue Bulls Rugby Referee Association||Rugby referee training program||South Africa||9.9 for entry-level qualification||minimum level increases as a candidate move up in the ranks to ensure that a proper level of fitness is maintained|
|Slovenian Ice hockey referee Association||Ice hockey referee training program||Slovenia||9.0 for passing||Part of the new Fitness program. Used to track referee fitness improvements off the ice off the season.|
|Swedish Army, Norrbotten Regiment I19||Mechanized Brigade Reconnaissance||Sweden||9.5 for entry-level qualification||Each applicant will perform the test after completing basic training|
|New York City Department of Education||School||USA||Grade depends on number of laps, age, and other body characteristics.||15 meter lap length. Uses a customized version of the FitnessGram PACER test.|
|Finland (Ministry of Education and Culture)||School||Finland||Use in grading is prohibited.||Part of a physical fitness test, mandatory for all schools. Replaces the earlier Cooper test.|
|China (Ministry of Education and Culture)||School||China||Grade depends on number of laps and age, minimum for a pass is a 5.9||Final grade from the test determines whether or not the student requires extra
and more intense physical education lessons.
In popular culture
The introductory explanation of one multi-stage fitness test, the FitnessGram PACER test, has been widely spread as a copypasta, meme and in other comedic ways due to the test's modern use in schools, primarily in physical education classes.
"The FitnessGram™ PACER Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test that progressively gets more difficult as it continues. The 20-meter pacer test will begin in 30 seconds. Line up at the start. The running speed starts slowly but gets faster each minute after you hear this signal. [beep] A single lap should be completed each time you hear this sound. [ding] Remember to run in a straight line, and run as long as possible. The second time you fail to complete a lap before the sound, your test is over. The test will begin on the word start. On your mark, get ready, start."
Episode 12 of the Australian children's comedy show Little Lunch is called 'The Beep Test'. The plot revolves around the school students' reactions to participating in the multi-stage fitness test.
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