As the name suggests, VO2 max testing is a lot of hard work! The test involves exercising to exhaustion whilst breathing in and out through a face mask. Not the most comfortable of tests as you can imagine! However, once completed can be a fantastic indicator on your aerobic fitness and health levels. So let’s find out more below…
What is VO2 Max?
First things first, what is VO2 Max. Let’s break it down;
- V stands for Volume
- O2 is for Oxygen
- Max simply stands for maximum
Therefore, VO2 Max as a whole, is the amount of oxygen an individual can breath in and utilise during maximal exercise.
What does VO2 Max tell us?
So now we know what VO2 Max stands for, let’s dig a bit deeper… VO2 Max explains how efficiently your body uses oxygen around your body when you exercise. Oxygen is so important when we exercise because oxygen gets turned into energy. This energy is called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP for short). ATP power our cells and helps release carbon dioxide when we breath out. Overall, the more oxygen your lungs can absorb and use during exercise, the better your VO2 Max.
How do we measure VO2 Max?
So the next big question, is how we measure it. There are two ways this can be done, either on a Watt bike or a treadmill. The participant wears a face mask like the photo above which fits tightly around your nose and mouth. This then measures the amount of air you breath in and out as you exercise.
You begin running or cycling slowly and then the intensity increases gradually until you reach exhaustion (this is perceived as maximal effort). Afterwards, we can look at the data which shows how much oxygen you used as you exercised and we can then work out the maximal oxygen you can consume during exercise.
What do the results mean?!
Why would we put ourselves through this you may ask? Well, the test provides accurate measurements of your current fitness. This can be used to evaluate your current training programme soyou can adapt it to be more effective. As well as the training benefits VO2 max can be used to determine your lung and heart health which is pretty handy.
Now calculating VO2 Max can be a bit overwhelming but essentially Peak VO2 is the measure of millimetres of oxygen consumed at maximal effort divided by a the participants weight in kilos per minute.
The above table gives an overview of baseline VO2 Max Fitness Levels and how the results of the test can be interpreted. As you can see there are different levels for men and women as well as taking ones age into consideration. The results are recorded in millilitres per minute per Kilograms (mL/min/kg). See how your results compare!
Is there an easier way to measure VO2 max?!
You may have also seen VO2 Max statistics on your fitness watch. This is estimated based on measuring your heart rate response to physical activity. Although not as accurate, this is a much simpler way to get a rough gauge of your VO2 max without having to connect yourself up to a mask and run/cycle until you are completely worn out.
The best way to improve your VO2 Max is to participate in cardiovascular exercises such as running, swimming or cycling – All three if you really fancy! If High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) is more your cup of tea, then you’re in luck as the high-intensity exercise followed by lower-intensity exercise also helps improve your VO2 max.
To summarise, the better your VO2 Max the better your body is at using oxygen to turn into energy to exercise. If you want to improve your VO2 max, you can by cardiovascular training or HITT workouts. Finally, you don’t have to pay out to do a full VO2 Max test in a lab your smart watch can give you a decent gauge on your VO2 Max but please remember this isn’t the most accurate but definitely more cost-effective.
Please do get in contact with us if you want to discuss anything to do with your health or fitness. Train safe and keep healthy.