VO2 max can give you important insights into your cardiorespiratory fitness. It will bear a direct, strong correlation to performance targets such as how long you can exercise at a certain intensity, or how quickly you can recover from hard training.
What is VO2 max?
Your VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise during exercise.
VO2 max is often used to test the cardiovascular fitness or aerobic endurance of an athlete, before, during, and at the end of a cycle of training. It is different to heart rate, though the two can be correlated. It is perhaps an even more effective way of gauging fitness, as it shows the body’s efficiency more fully. We measure it in millilitres of oxygen consumed per minute, per kilogram of bodyweight.
VO2 max test
Though it is perhaps a better gauge of fitness than resting heart rate, VO2 max is a lot harder to test accurately. For this reason, most people should use their resting heart rate predominantly as a test of their overall cardiovascular fitness.
Testing VO2 max requires a lot of expensive equipment and highly trained specialists. A mask and heart rate monitor are used in conjunction with a treadmill or stationary bike. The mask is used to collect and measure the volume of oxygen inhaled at any given exercise intensity. This intensity is increased on the cardio equipment until oxygen consumption remains steady.
At this plateau, the body moves from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. Here, you will stop using oxygen to fuel the breakdown of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates: there simply won’t be enough oxygen for you to do so!
Many clinics exist to run this kind of trial, though they can cost a lot of money. However, gyms and athletic and wellness centres are increasingly offering VO2 testing for their members. They will use their equipment alongside VO2 max calculators to find out where their test subjects fall.
VO2 Max rates
There is no real ideal VO2 max, and expected amounts will be dependent on a range of variables such as age, gender, fitness level and environmental factors. However, we can find some common ranges, as with resting heart rates, that seem to be normal and healthy for any given cross section of the population.
These include, for example:
- An average sedentary male should score a VO2 max of about 35 to 40 mL/kg/min. The average sedentary female should be at approximately 27 to 30 mL/kg/min.
- Elite male athletes have shown VO2 maxes of up to 85 mL/kg/min. Elite female athletes have scored up to 77 mL/kg/min.
- A good VO2 maxfor a reasonably active 25-year-old male is 42.5-46.4 mL/kg/min. Good value for a reasonably active 25-year-old female is 33.0-36.9 mL/kg/min.