What is VO2 Max

VO2 max is an acronym for maximal oxygen uptake and is also known as aerobic capacity, aerobic power or maximal oxygen uptake. In simple words, it is the amount of oxygen consumed when a body is in maximum physical exercise in a given time period. It is an indicator of cardiovascular fitness, and knowing the max VO2 levels helps in understanding the aerobic endurance level of a person. This is important to make exercise and training regimes more effective and in increasing an athlete’s performance.

How is VO2 Max Measured

The measurement unit of max VO2 is milliliters of oxygen consumed per minute by one kilogram of body weight (ml/min/kg). The most famous and widely used formula for calculating max VO2 is the Fick equation:

VO2 max = Q(CaO2 – CVO2)

In the above equation, ‘Q’ stands for cardiac output, ‘Ca’ stands for arterial oxygen content and ‘Cv’ stands for venous oxygen content.

VO2 Max Test

VO2 max levels can be measured by taking a test at a professional sports lab. In a standard sports lab, they make use of various modern equipment, like oxygen and carbon dioxide analyzer and an ergometer, to give a precise and accurate max VO2 level of a person. However, there are some easy max VO2 tests that can be conducted easily, like the ones mentioned below.

– 2.4 km Run Test: Run for 2.4 km at maximum speed in six laps. Record the time taken to cover each lap and the overall time taken to cover the entire 2.4 km. Use the lap timings to analyze pace judgment and the overall time to calculate VO2 max.
– Critical Swim Speed: Swim 400 m and record the total time taken. After a 10 m recovery break, swim for 50 m while recording the time. Use a VO2 max calculator to calculate max VO2 levels.
– Treadmill Test: Run on a treadmill with a starting slope of 0 degree and a speed of 7 miles/hr (11 km/hr). Increase the slope by 2 degrees at the end of every minute (without taking a pause in the run), till you are no longer able to continue and record the time spent in running. Use a VO2 max online calculator or calculate using the following formula:

VO2 max = 42 + (Time on the treadmill x 2)

Uth-Sørensen-Overgaard-Pedersen Estimation: When maximum heart rate (HRmax) and heart rate when at rest are known, the score can be measured using this formula:

VO2 max = 15(HRmax/HRrest)

Cooper Test: Run at maximum speed for 12 minutes. Then note the distance covered in meters (d12) and calculate the score using the following formula:

VO2 max = (d12 – 505)/45

Factors Affecting VO2 Max

he levels of VO2 max differ from person to person, subject to various causes, some of which are beyond human control. Having an active lifestyle (like in the case of sportsmen) greatly improve max VO2 levels but it is not the sole determinant of max VO2 levels. Some of the factors that affect a person’s max VO2 levels are listed below.

VO2 Max Levels
Age (y)  : 18-30

Inactive  : Male (43-56) , Female (33-46)
Active    : Male (40-85), Female (35-75)

*The highest scores of max VO2 was recorded at 96 (7.3 l/min for 76 kg of body weight), in 2005 for Espen Harald Bjerke (a Norwegian cross-country skier). VO2 max is in ml/min/kg.

– Altitude: Max VO2 levels decrease with increase in the altitude. Certain VO2 max scores have been known to drop by 9 to 10% with increase in every 1 km over an altitude of 1.6 km.
– Genetics: The size of the different organs of the body and the types of muscle fiber are determined by a person’s genetic makeup. According to a study done by Cerritos College in California, around 30% of a person’s VO2 max scores are determined by his/her genes.
– Gender: Men are usually physiologically larger than women. So it is but natural that men score higher when it comes to max VO2 levels as compared to women. Studies show that on an average, men have 10 to 15 percent higher max VO2 scores as compared to women.
– Cardiac Output and Oxygen Carrying Capacity: Cardiac output is the amount of blood the cardiac (heart) muscles pump out per minute and is measured in liters. Higher amounts of cardiac output means higher amounts of oxygen available to the body for consumption, which in turn increases a person’s VO2 max scores. Oxygen carrying capacity refers to the amount of oxygen found in the blood or a person’s hemoglobin count. Greater the hemoglobin count, greater the oxygen saturation in the blood and better the max VO2 scores.
– Peripheral Limitations: It is related to mitochondrial enzyme (assists mitochondria in producing ATP), muscle diffusion capacity and capillary density and they are important in determining max VO2 scores.
– Lactate Threshold: It is the point at which there is a sudden increase in the lactate levels in the blood when the body has reached its peak during an intense exercise. Higher the lactate threshold, greater the endurance levels of the body.

Despite the limiting factors, improving VO2 max scores is possible, if an appropriate exercise or training regime is followed. A point to be noted here is that VO2 levels cannot be increased beyond a certain score. This endpoint differs from person to person depending on various factors (most of which are mentioned above). That is the reason why there is very little possibility of increasing an athlete’s VO2 max scores. As for those who want to improve: the best way to improve max VO2 scores is by working out on sustained aerobic conditioning, but only after consulting a certified physiologist or professional personal trainer.

Fun Fitness Activities

Having a sedentary lifestyle, devoid of any physical activity, for a longer duration leads to obesity, weakens muscles and bones, increases chances of heart diseases, etc. Therefore, doctors often advise us to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes every day. Regular physical exercise is a must for both, children as well as adults.

The term exercise is often associated with hard work or painful hours at the gym. Secondly, people also claim having no time to exercise or not being motivated enough to exercise regularly. However, did you know that there are several interesting activities that are considered good forms of exercise?

Fitness Activities for Adults

You need not subscribe to a gym membership to get in shape. Take a look at these activities. They are simple, interesting, fun-filled, and definitely not boring.

Rather than meeting your friends for a Sunday brunch, why not plan an outing and go trekking? Choose a spot and make picnic style arrangements. Along with trekking, you can enjoy in adventure sports there like rock climbing or rappelling. A combination of walking and climbing can make a wonderful cardio exercise. Secondly, you get to spend time with your friends/family, breathe some fresh air, and also enjoy the scenic beauty.

Any type of dance is good for the overall fitness. Subscribe to dance programs of your choice, be it aerobic dance, salsa, Zumba, or other classical dance form. You can even invite friends, put on some loud music and have an exhaustive dancing session!

Swimming is the best exercise and fun-filled fitness activity for people of all age groups. Swimming regularly for 20-30 minutes can burn sufficient amounts of calories and help in weight loss. Secondly, swimming can tone up muscles and enhance physical strength. Try swimming with family or friends, participating in swimming competitions, etc., regularly.

Martial Arts
Want to learn a new skill? Why not try martial arts? Not many are aware that martial arts is considered as one of the most effective fitness programs. Some of its benefits include: complete body workout, weight loss, improved muscle tone, stress relief, etc. Although it may be exhaustive, it can be a wonderful physical activity.

Walking, power walking, brisk walking, bicycling, for 20-30 minutes daily can work wonders on your health. It helps in weight loss, improves heart health, reduces high blood pressure, tones your muscles, etc. Try going for a walk with your partner after work/dinner, or walk your dog, or walk to your grocery store or other shorter distances whenever possible.

Activities for Kids

It is a misconception that children do not require exercise. Children should be made to understand the importance of regular physical activity. They will learn by example. Therefore, make sure you have an active lifestyle.

A walk through the nature, on the mountains, forests, etc., is one of the best fitness activities for the entire family. Involve kids in planning the trip or packing picnic snacks. They will enjoy the outdoors and also get to learn a lot from the scenic surroundings. Arranging a hiking expedition with children and teenagers is a good option.

Rather than letting kids on their own (glued to the television or video games), you can get involved and plan games for them. One idea is to arrange a relay or an obstacle race in the playground or the courtyard. A simple relay race like collecting articles on the way and reaching the finishing point can be an interesting activity for toddlers. Secondly, you can also plan a three-legged race, skipping race, etc.

Playground Games
As a continuation of the aforementioned idea, you can plan interesting playground games with your kids. Games like hide-and-seek, soccer, baseball, volleyball, cricket, etc., are fun. You can even arrange competitive sports so that the kids look forward to it and participate wholeheartedly. You get to spend time together as a family, burn calories, and inculcate values like team spirit, sportsmanship, in your children.

Hula Hooping
Hula hoop exercises are known since a long time and are popular even today. All you need to do is buy hula hoops of proper size for the kids, and enjoy hooping around. Secondly, there are several hula hoop games that you can arrange. One of them is to stand in a circle by holding hands and try to pass the ring from one point to the other.

Although not as exhausting as aforementioned activities, gardening can help relax and reduce stress. Involve kids in simple garden activities like sowing seeds (of vegetables of their choice), plant a single pot, clear weeds, etc. Kids will learn new things and concepts and also enjoy eating vegetables they have planted. Gardening is also proven to reduce stress to a great extent in adults. So, make this your next holiday activity!

Apart from these, some other outdoor activities for adults and children include tug-of-war, running and hopping races, jumping jacks, etc. So, forget your gym, form a group of like-minded people (kids and adults together), workout and enjoy with these interesting forms of exercises. Good luck!