What is VO2 Max?
VO2 max is a fitness measure based on the oxygen consumed whilst exercising at maximum capacity. This is used by elite athletics to determine fitness levels by measuring the maximum millilitres of oxygen used per kilogram of bodyweight in one minute.
The fitter you are, the higher your VO2 max will be and the longer, more vigorous exercise you can perform.
Simply put it is the maximum amount of oxygen you push through you lungs when performing at maximum.
Should I be concerned with my VO2 Max?
For the average gym user, it is unlikely to be as big a concern as it will for elite athletes. For athletes, VO2, is considered the best cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance measure because the more oxygen utilised at high intensity, the more energy produced.
However, the variety of fitness tests available can give a perceived level of your fitness and allow you to track progress when re-tested.
How do you measure VO2 Max?
Making the lungs work as hard as possible completes an accurate test. The test is achieved by gradually increasing the speed and effort whilst performing cardiovascular exercise. When the intensity increases, the lungs draw on more oxygen in order to supply muscles. At yourexhaustion point a measure is calculated.
Whilst top sportspersons complete this test, for the rest of us testing to the point of exhaustion has its dangers and so not recommended. There are numerous tests such as a 3-minute step test or one-mile run and walk exercises, which give a perceived measurement of your cardiovascular fitness.
What can affect your VO2 Max?
Various factors can have an effect on your fitness levels:
Age – As we get older, our VO2 max decreases. Don’t need? Is there a different comment?
Altitude – At height, our VO2 max will decrease. For every 1000m above 1600m our maximum oxygen uptake decreases by 8-11%.
Gender – whilst elite female athletes have a higher VO2 max values than their male counterparts do, differences in body size, composition and blood content generally mean their VO2 max is about 20% lower than men.
How to increase your VO2 Max
Whilst there are genetic factors influencing your VO2 max, research shows training can increase it. In fact, for those with a lower VO2 max who are more unfit, it is easier to increase this number through training. Research shows this can increase by up to 20%. For those who are fitter it is harder to see dramatic changes as in many cases these people have already approached their genetic potential.
How do I increase my VO2 Max?
- Lose body fat – because VO2 max is your body’s ability to uptake oxygen relevant to one’s body weight, by reducing this you will naturally see an increase in your score.
- Increase your cardio training – by working out at 60-85% of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes 3-5 times a week. Consistent aerobic conditioning causes an increase in VO2 max levels.
- Interval training – reach your VO2 max by performing intervals. By training at 90-100% of your maximum heart rate for at least 4-8 minutes to get significant gains. Start with 3 intervals once a week and gradually increase (5 to 10% per week) to prevent overtraining and avoid injury.
- Push yourself – always look to progress your workouts. Be it intense intervals (increase the speed) or a run outdoors (increase the duration), by constantly pushing yourself further you will able to increase your overall fitness level.
For further information, or to book in for a test, please speak to your onsite fitness team.