What is Your VO2 Max and Why Should You Care?

Research now suggests a strong link between our VO2 Max and longevity – and that’s a word which always makes us listen more closely. VO2 Max may sound like an energy drink, but it’s actually the amount of oxygen your body is able to use in one minute during intense exercise. Maximal oxygen consumption reflects your cardiorespiratory fitness, so it’s an accurate indicator of your endurance capacity, your athletic potential and now, even your overall health and longevity.  In 2016, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement recommending that cardiorespiratory fitness, quantifiable as VO2 max, be regularly assessed and utilized as a clinical vital sign. This statement was based on mounting evidence that lower fitness levels are associated with high risk of cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and mortality rates stemming from various types of cancers. 

For more info, we reached out to OrthoCarolina and J. Ryan Martin, MD. As Dr. Martin explained to me, people will often mistakenly attempt improving VO2 Max (V – Volume; O – Oxygen; Max – Maximum) by over-training and not adding in rest days, so if you’re like me and just hearing about it, remember — baby steps; rest days are important between training, so you can avoid injury.

So, How Do I Improve My VO2 Max?

Interval workouts are one of the best ways to improve VO2 Max, but without the rest days, injuries like stress fractures, tendonitis or tendon injuries can occur, ultimately, backfiring and decreasing one’s ability to train, therefore, lowering the VO2 Max, so take it slowly.


Where can I measure my VO2 Max?

Wellness and fitness centers may monitor VO2 Max, and some include it in membership, so ask. A VO2 Max test includes riding a bike or running on a treadmill, any type of increased exertion exercise. Typically, you wear a mask that helps measure how much oxygen you consume. The workout becomes more intense until you reach the maximum effort, and your oxygen levels continued to be monitored. From these measurements, your VO2 Max can be calculated. This can help you gauge how intense your workouts are compared to your potential.


What precautionary measures should people take when moving from 30/30 & 60/60 intervals to hills to lactate?

Jumping into high intensity intervals without properly warming-up risks pulling and or tearing muscles. A good base level of fitness is key to avoid common injuries like Achilles tendon ruptures, hamstring tears, etc., so if you begin to focus on your VO2 Max, remember to slowly increase intensity of your workouts. Especially keep this in mind with hill repeats; they stress different muscle groups than running on flat ground and can potentially cause overuse injuries if they are not gradually incorporated into your workout.


But How Can A Higher VO2 Max Increase My Years?

VO2 max is the ability of a person’s body to utilize oxygen during maximal exercise effort. Therefore, people with higher VO2 max are likely more healthy and have a higher functional capacity. Similarly, they will have additional reserves in the case of more stressful activities (illness) or traumatic events (including acute blood loss). So, it’s definitely worth measuring.


How Can I Measure My VO2 Max?

VO2 max is an excellent method for evaluating athletes and gauging progress with various exercise regimens. Many centers have utilized VO2 Max tests as a potentially safer method for evaluating health and or athletic ability, especially gyms or exercise facilities.


Who Uses VO2 Max?

At the professional level, VO2 max, lactate threshold and aerobic capacity are commonly cited comparisons among elite athletes. Even if the major leagues isn’t in your future, it is worth finding out your capacity for oxygen usage, VO2 Max, which sometimes people call your maximal oxygen consumption, maximal oxygen uptake, peak oxygen uptake or maximal aerobic capacity.


vo2 max | J. Ryan Martin, MD
J. Ryan Martin, MD – OrthoCarolina


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