What Is A VO2 Max And Why Does It Matter?

What Is A VO2 Max And Why Does It Matter
Pushing the limits, running harder, lifting heavier, these are all benchmark goals that anyone from elite athletes to recreational exercisers wants to achieve. With all of the bustling improvements in technology, it can be super easy to be able to track certain factors that come together to build the perfect workout regimen. From BMI and body fat percentages to target heart rate and steps per day, these stats are imperative in helping you to not only improve physically but mentally as well.

Of course, some stats mean more to some athletes than others – it’s all fully dependent on your goals, and what you’re looking to achieve in terms of your health, and one of the most prominent fitness factors for people across the board is VO2 max.

How Is VO2 Max Measured?

VO2 max is known as one of the best ways to determine someone’s fitness level and is measured as the maximum amount of oxygen that your muscles use each minute during exercise. Knowing your VO2 max helps you to not only know how fit you are but can shed some insight on what you need to do to improve certain areas of your wellness. This particular fitness marker is measured in mL/kg/min, or how much oxygen in milliliters is consumed and used by the body in one minute, based on body weight noted in kilograms.

When it comes to getting your VO2 max tested, it can be tricky – after all, it takes some pretty fancy lab equipment to determine just how well your body is utilizing oxygen while at work. Typically, things like gas analyzers, air probes, vacuum pumps, a face mask, and a chamber for mixing air are all part of the normal gamut of equipment needed in order to accurately test VO2 max, although some new systems can do it all with just one specialized piece of equipment.

VO2 max can have several variables affecting the final outcome (including the length of testing, type of testing, and environmental factors), but for the most part, a VO2 max test is done with the subject on a treadmill. The pace starts slowly, and then gets faster as time goes on; this continues until the person can no longer keep the pace with the treadmill. During the entire test, a face mask is worn, and this then measures the oxygen flow of said athlete.

For most people, the final number can range anywhere from 30-60 mL/kg/min, with elite athletes reaching up into the 70-80 range.

Limitations to VO2 max

Granted, there are some exceptions that need to be made in regards to testing for VO2 max, since it can vary; this can include factors such as how well a person moves (for example, someone brand new to running is probably not as efficient with their overall movements compared to a runner with years of experience), age (VO2 max has been shown to slowly decrease over time), training location (temperatures and altitude can affect VO2 max), and gender (men are able to carry more oxygen throughout their bodies due to an increase in hemoglobin). Even with these factors playing a part in VO2 estimations, it’s still a fabulous marker to use in terms of determining health status and work capacity.

How to Increase Your VO2 max

If you’re interested in boosting your VO2 max, there are ways! The most popular would be through interval training, which alternates periods of hard, intense work with periods of rest. This allows for the VO2 max level to be reached multiple times, and can be done through swimming, biking, running, or any other combination of HIIT workouts. So, is it absolutely necessary to know your VO2 max number? No, definitely not – and most of us will never know what that exact number is, unless we’re tested. We can always judge fitness levels by looking at a 5k race time, resting heart rate, or even your heart rate zones during exercise – so whatever your workout routine may be, keep it up to help increase that oxygen consumption and overall health benefits!

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