VO2 Max: Key Indicator to Cardiovascular Fitness

in #steemstem4 years ago

Have you ever wondered why at times you run out of breath in the most minimal amount of activity? The answer to this may not be that straightforward, but one of the major factors is VO2 Max.

In specific terms, VO2 max is the highest rate at which you can transport oxygen (via blood) to your muscles so that your muscles can produce energy aerobically. Most runners can sustain this level of intensity for about 8 minutes

If a person has lower VO2 max values, after exhaustion he starts producing energy anaerobically and hence reached lactate threshold which results in fatigue.

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VO2 Max Mechanism

A good way to think about VO2 max is to consider it your body’s plumbing system for aerobic exercise. If you have a high VO2 max, your heart has the ability to pump a large amount of blood with each beat, and your circulatory system (your piping, in this analogy) can efficiently deliver that blood to your working muscles. Training improves your ability to sustain a high percentage of your maximal heart rate for long periods of time, your heart’s stroke volume (how much blood it can pump per beat), the size and number of mitochondria in your muscles, the density of your capillaries, and the proportion of your blood sent to working muscles.

So a higher VO2 Max value implies a better pumping system.

VO2 Max Calculations

  • Method #1: Accurate measurement of VO2 max is done in a sports performance lab. An all-out effort is performed on a treadmill or bicycle under a strict protocol. These protocols involve specific increases in the speed and intensity of the exercise and collection and measurement of the volume and oxygen concentration of inhaled and exhaled air.

This determines how much oxygen the athlete is using.An athlete's oxygen consumption rises in a linear relationship with exercise intensity—up to a point. There is a specific point at which oxygen consumption plateaus even if the exercise intensity increases. This plateau marks the VO2 max.

  • Method #2: The Rockport Fitness Walking Test (RFWT) using a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) walk
    Although a little dry it is more accurate than the rest available here. You will need to time your 1 mile walk time and HR for this one as well:

Estimated VO2 max (ml/kg/min) = 132.853 – (0.0769 x body weight in [pounds]) – (0.3877 x age [years]) + (6.3150 x gender [female = 0; male = 1]) – (3.2649 x 1-mile walk time [in minutes and hundredths]) – (0.1565 x 1-minute heart rate at end of mile [beats per minute]).

The outcome will have a standard estimate of the error of +/- 5 so take account for this in your final answer. For example, if your final measurement is 40 ml/kg/min then you know your VO2Max is somewhere between 35-45 ml/kg/min. (Subtract and add 5 to your final score)

  • Method #3: Using your resting heart rate and age
    Not quite as accurate but simple to calculate:

VO2 max = 15.3 x (MHR/RHR)

MHR = Maximum heart rate (beats/minute) calculated using age = 208 - (0.7 x age)

RHR = Resting heart rate (beats/minute) = number of heart beats in 20 seconds x 3

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VO2 Max Ranges

If we break down the formula we can see why it gets its strange name. The “V” = volume per time. The “O2” = oxygen maximum – oxygen minimum. VO2 max is measured either as an absolute value or a relative value. The absolute is measured in liters of oxygen per minute (l/min)

  • VO2 max results vary greatly The average for a sedentary individual is close to 35 ml/kg/min whereas Elite endurance athletes often average 70 ml/kg/min.
  • VO2 max in men is approximately 40-60% higher in males than females.

One of the highest recorded VO2 max results (90 ml/kg/min) was that of a cross-country skier. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's VO2 max was reported at 85 ml/kg/min during his peak of conditioning.

You have a VO2 max 24/7 as you are always taking in oxygen and utilizing it. At rest, the common VO2 max is 3.5 l/min of oxygen consumption.

Source Values:Kenney WL, Wilmore JH, Costill DL. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2012.

Improving VO2 Max

Research shows that although VO2 max has a genetic component, it can also be increased through training. The two methods for increasing VO2 max include increases in both training volume and intensity.

They also indicates that the less fit you are, the more you can increase your VO2 max through training. In fact, novice exercisers have been able to increase VO2 max by 20 percent through proper training.


As stated, VO2 max is one of critical fitness parameters and importance goes beyond to athletes to people living a sedentary lifestyle.

That’s because low VO2 max is associated with higher risk of a long list of serious conditions, including heart disease, certain types of cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, it’s a better predictor or mortality risk than better-known risk factors like smoking and high blood pressure.[link to statement]

Reference Video


one should not do over exercise it should alwys stay balance otherwise will land into a bigger problem

Good post. I did not know about VO2 . i think if there is a congestion in the lung breathing problem will create and as such lung can not hold required amount of air .

Good Post i love the excirse

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VO2 max is a great INDIRECT test of maximal exertion. Problem is its not very accurate and hard to carry out. HR max is a good estimate.

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