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VO2 Max: What Is VO2 Max? | Fitness, Health & Exercise Glossary

Posted Feb 19 2009 5:37pm
What is VO2 Max and How Does It Work?

Definition of VO2 Max

VO2 Max is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise.  

Vo2 max is considered the standard indicator of cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory endurance and fitness.  Vo2 Max determines a person or athlete’s ability to perform prolonged aerobic activity.  VO2 Max is also known as known as maximal oxygen uptake, aerobic capacity, or maximal oxygen consumption.



Measuring VO2 Max

Vo2 Max VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen, in millilitres, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight.  VO2 Max can be measured directly via a clinical VO2 Max test or can be estimated indirectly using a number of informal methods that allow you to calculate VO2 Max yourself.

Direct VO2 Max Tests

In a clinical setting, VO2 Max is determined by directly via gas analysis. 

This VO2 test wires the athlete or subject to a computer and has them breath directly into an apparatus that analyzes exhaled air while the subject runs on a treadmill.  Heart rate is also monitored via an EKG.  While this is the most accurate test of VO2 Max, it is also fairly expensive and not practical for most people.

Indirect VO2 Max Tests

Indirect testing of VO2 Max is more accessible for most people.

While the results are not exact, they can provide a basic idea of VO2 Max and overall cardiorespiratory endurance and fitness.  Also, most indirect tests have the subject perform cardiovascular exercise at sub-optimal levels, which makes them safer.

VO2 Max Ranges: A Comparison

Vo2 Max ranges will vary, depending on a person’s activity levels, gender, body composition and cardiovascular endurance. 

On average, sedentary individuals have VO2 max ranges of 30-40 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min);  casually walking or cycling each day will raise this to 40-50.  The VO2 Max of highly-trained athletes tends to be  in the 70-80 range.

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