The PACER Test, or Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, is an aerobic capacity test used by FitnessGram. According to the FitnessGram instructions, it is a 20-meter shuttle run, where students run back and forth as many times as they can between two markers, using an audio CD to guide their pace. The test is one way that middle school physical educators can determine the aerobic fitness of students.

What Is FitnessGram?

The FitnessGram is a series of tests developed by the Cooper Institute and is in partnership with the National Football League's Play 60 movement. According to the official website, FitnessGram "assesses the five components of health-related fitness: aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition." The Presidential Youth Fitness Program uses the assessment and accompanying software to test and give fitness-related feedback and suggestions to students.

How Does the PACER Test Work?

To administer a test in a middle school, students are lined up about 40 to 60 inches apart. They run to a marker 20 meters away, wait for a signal from an audio CD and then run back. As students progress in the test, the rest time at the markers becomes shorter, thus increasing the difficulty. A student who does not reach the cone by the time the signal sounds is given another chance to catch up to the pace, but if he misses the mark twice in a row, his test is over. Students are given a score based on how many laps they complete. The minimum standard for a 12 year old boy is 32, and for a 13 or 14 year old boy, it is 41. For girls, the minimum for ages 12 through 15 is 23.

What Equipment Is Needed?

To set up the PACER test, test administrators need a tape measure, markers and a stereo with the FitnessGram CD. They measure off an area that is 20 meters long and use some sort of marker, such as a flag or cone, at each end. The stereo needs to be loud enough so that all participants can hear the signal, alerting them when they are to turn and run in the other direction. Clipboards, class rosters and pencils are helpful for recording the scores.

What Does It Test?

The PACER test is one way to determine aerobic capacity, which, according to, is the body's ability to effectively use oxygen. Those who are more aerobically fit can sustain exercise for a longer time period than those who are not as fit. The Mayo Clinic states that improving aerobic fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle and important for maintaining a healthy weight, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure and even cancer. Middle school students and parents, along with their doctors, can use the results of the PACER test to help determine whether lifestyle changes may be needed.

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