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Use VO2 Max to Determine Your Fitness Level

VO2 max (V-volume per time, O2-oxygen, max-maximum) is typically defined as the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to process oxygen during exercise. This number is useful because it is the most reliable way to determine the fitness level of the individual. By knowing your VO2 max, you can not only compare your fitness level to “standards”, but you can also objectively assess your progress while improving your current overall level of endurance and fitness.

Knowing your VO2 max is also great for setting goals and motivation. Most recreational exercisers really don’t need to know their VO2 max; although I recommend knowing it along with your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat, and BMI (Body Mass Index). By knowing these numbers, you are able to self- diagnose your current overall state of health and well-being (extremely important if you are over the age of 45). The more oxygen your muscles use, the more efficiently your body works, allowing you to do more work, with less stress on your body. VO2 max is one of those rare health numbers you want to go up, not down.

VO2 max is usually measured in liters of oxygen per minute (l/min) or milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). I know, it sounds confusing, but thankfully, most of the time you won’t need to do all that math yourself. Generally, to figure out your VO2 max, you can use a treadmill fit test, which most treadmills already have programmed into them, or your doctor or a sport professional can figure out your magic number for you.

Ways To Improve Your VO2 Max:

  • Increase the frequency of endurance training
  • Increase the intensity of endurance training
  • Change the type (walk, run, bike, swim) of endurance training
  • Increase the time of endurance training
  • Implement interval training
  • Add stairs, hills, or incline to your normal routine
  • Add sprints to your normal routine
  • Reduce the amount of rest time between sets while lifting weights

Average VO2 Max Scores For Females (expressed in ml/kg/min):

  • Ages 20 -29: 35-37
  • Ages 30-39: 33-35
  • Ages 40-49: 31-32
  • Ages 50-59: 28-29
  • Ages 60 +:    26-27

Average VO2 Max Scores For Males (expressed in ml/kg/min):

  • Ages 20 -29: 42-44
  • Ages 30-39: 40-42
  • Ages 40-49: 38-42
  • Ages 50-59: 35-37
  • Ages 60 +:    31-34

Do you know your VO2 max?

October 25th, 2010

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