what is vo2 max?

VO2 Max is a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness,  This is essentially the maximum amount of oxygen that can be used at a cellular level for the entire body.  it has been found that this measure correlates well with the degree of physical conditioning and is the most widely accepted measure of cardiorespiratory fitness.

It is expressed as the maximum oxygen uptake per kilogram of bodyweight per minute. (ml/kg/min).  In other words the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during exercise at any given time.

An easy way of finding out your Vo2 max is to do a Cooper Test.  There are two ways of doing this, either by the time it takes to run 1.5 miles or the distance run in 12 minutes.  Below is a calculator for computing Vo2 max calculated from the from distance run distance in 12 minutes.

How to do a Cooper Test

  1. Find a level area, a running track is best, but a flat and even field will also work well.  Try to find a route that doesn't have sharp turns, or requires crossing roads (traffic will slow you down)

  2. Do a thorough warm up, you'll be running at hard effort for 12 minutes, it will be out of your comfort zone!

  3. A GPS watch will be good enough for measuring your distance, but if you want to be really precise then measuring out a track with cones or other markers every 10m will be the most accurate.

  4. Run for exactly 12 minutes then stop and record your distance run.

Top Tip

Try to run even paced, you will get a better result by keeping as even a pace as possible and speeding up in the last minute than you will by going fast from the off and trying to hang on for the last 8 minutes!

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Poor VO2 max is also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

People with a low VO2 max are also more to prone breast, lung, and gastrointestinal cancers

  • Researchers found that for every 10 mL/kg/min increase in VO2Max at the baseline test, there was a 17 percent lower risk of cancer death and an 11 percent lower risk of death from any cause.  However, this was not seen between self-reported physical activity and risk of cancer death.

  • A number of epidemiologic studies suggesting that those individuals who are more physically active are less likely to have their cancer come back, so they have better cancer outcomes than those who are inactive.

Survival of the fittest: VO2max, a key predictor of longevity? (Strasser & Burtscher, 2018)

"VO2 max is the strongest independent predictor of future life expectancy in both healthy and cardiorespiratory-diseased individuals. In addition, muscle stimulation is essential in order to prevent muscle wasting, disability, and increased hospitalisation in old age, all crucial ways to avoid long-term care, thereby promoting quality of life in aging humans" 

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