1. What is VO2 Max?

2. What does it consist of?

3. Why is it performed?

4. Preparation for the VO2 Max

5. What does it feel like during the test?

6. Meaning of abnormal results

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen that our body can absorb, transport and consume. In other words, it is our cardiorespiratory capacity, a quantity that we must keep in mind when we do sport.

It is also called maximum oxygen consumption or aerobic capacity, and is measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram consumed by our body per minute (ml/kg/min).

VO2 Max allows us to know our cardiorespiratory capacity.

What does it consist of?

There are several ways to know our VO2 Max. The most direct and objective way is to perform a spirometry during a stress test.

There are other tests that allow estimating the maximum oxygen consumption, although they will not be as accurate. They are:

– Cooper’s test: the most common and simplest option. It consists of a run for 12 consecutive minutes at the highest possible speed. Once finished, the formula VO2 Max = 0.0268 X Distance (m) – 11.3 should be applied to calculate the estimated VO2 Max.

– Course Navette test: the objective is to run a distance of 20 meters according to the audio tones, each time the route will be marked by a shorter time. Speed is essential and the maximum number of sets must be done within the time limit. VO2 Max can be calculated using the formula VO2 Max = 5.857 X Speed – 19.458, starting from the speed of the last series.

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– Rockport test: indicated for those people with less physical condition. In the test 1,609 meters should be done, walking fast, and then note how long it has been done. Formula: VO2 Max = 132.6 – (0.17 X weight) – (0.39 X age) + (6.31 X sex) – (3.27 x time) – (0.156 x HR). Depending on gender, substitute 0 if you are male and 1 if you are female.

Smart watches also measure VO2 Max, but keep in mind that this is an estimation of data, not the actual calculation. The watch bases the measurement on: running speed, heart rate and physical values such as age, height, weight.

Why is it done?

It is done to know your pulmonary and cardiac performance, a high VO2 Max is better than a low one. It means that your body obtains a greater volume of oxygen, which will then be received by the muscles.

If you practice sport frequently, it is important to calculate your VO2 Max to know your cardiovascular capacity; and, in this way, to know if you will be able to maintain the intensity of the exercise (cycling, running…). In other words, it is indicative of our physical fitness and performance.

Preparation for VO2 Max

Depending on the method for calculating the VO2 Max a different preparation is needed. For spirometry it is advisable not to eat heavy meals before the test and not to smoke in the 4 to 6 hours prior to the test.

For the other tests it is important to be in good physical condition and to have had a medical check-up beforehand.

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What do you feel during the test?

In spirometry you may feel shortness of breath or dizziness when blowing. On the other hand, in the other tests you may feel muscle fatigue as the test progresses, the further the distance covered.

Meaning of abnormal results

VO2 MAX is a very useful parameter for Cardiology specialists to assess the severity of heart failure, since as this disease progresses, the maximum consumption of CO2 becomes lower. For many years it has been used, among other indexes, to establish the indication for heart transplantation.

It should be noted that VO2 Max is conditioned by several factors, such as age, decreasing up to 10% every decade. The results change according to body size and blood volume, so that the VO2 Max of a man will generally be 20% higher than that of a woman. Likewise, the value will also depend on the physiology and genetics of each organism.