VO2 Max: What’s your capacity?


VO2 max is the maximum capacity of a person’s body to transport and move oxygen during exercise. It is a measurement of a person’s physical fitness in relation to aerobic endurance. “V” stands for volume, “O2” stands for oxygen, and “max” stands for maximum. It is a tool to track progress over time. In essence, it is the measure of how much oxygen the body consumes during high levels of exercise. It is said to be the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness.

This isn’t the easiest measure to figure out yourself, but it can be done. You will need a stop watch and flat surface (a treadmill works). Next, you will run 1 mile as fast as you possibly can and record down to the exact second what your time was. You will need to convert this final time to hundredths of minutes. For example, if your time was 10 minutes and 20 seconds, your converted time would be 10.33 minutes. You will then need to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Take your weight (pounds) divided by height (inches squared) and multiply this by 703. Now here comes the work….

In order to calculate your VO2 max, (1) start by multiplying 0.21 by your age in years and either 1 if you’re a man and 0 if you are a woman. Then (2) multiply 0.84 by your BMI and subtract the number from your first result (revised total). Next, (3) multiply -8.41 by your mile time and subtract from the revised total. Now, (4) multiply 0.34 by your mile time squared and add that total to the new revised total. Lastly, (5) add 108.94 to this number for your final answer.

Let’s use an example: A 24 year old male can run 7 minutes and 20 seconds mile. His BMI is 24.

  1. 0.21(24 x 1)
  2. 0.84(24) – 8.41(7.33)
  3. 0.34(7.33 x 7.33)
  4. + 108.94

Now you can use a chart to assess what this value means in relation to your cardiovascular performance.

There are trained professionals who can do this too. This can involve running on a treadmill and being hooked up to mask that measures oxygen intake by collecting expired carbon dioxide in a bag or container. The speed of the treadmill is gradually increased until maximum effort is achieved.

An athlete can measure their progress by improving their VO2 score. Charts indicate below average to well above average levels. Having an accurate professional test performed is not always feasible and requires a lot of effort by the examinee to run at their fastest speed for 1 mile. Doing it yourself at home is possible and can help you improve your training results over time. For those data driven goal seekers, VO2 max is another tool to push yourself to keep making faster and faster strides. 1 mile at a time you are making progress, truthfully, no matter how fast or slow you are going.




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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough owns a fitness studio in Oceanside CA called Every BODY's Fit. She has a Doctorate in Health and Human Performance, M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science, and she's an NASM Master Trainer & Instructor. She's also a professional natural bodybuilder, fitness model, Wellness Coach, and AFAA Group Exercise Instructor. She has 6 books on Amazon too,.