If you use fitness trackers, you have probably heard of VO2 max as a way to measure your health. But what is VO2 max and why is it important?
VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process during activity. To get this, we compare your heart’s pumping capacity with its ability to use oxygen.
VO2 max is important because it indicates your endurance and performance ability. Measuring it provides important insights into how to improve your fitness routine. We’ve gathered all the most important data about VO2 max tracking and what it means for your exercise regime.
In this article, we’ll talk about what VO2 is, how it is measured, and how you can use it to shape your fitness goals.
Table of Contents
What is VO2 Max?
VO2 max, also known as aerobic fitness, is a measure of your body’s aerobic (heart) health. VO2 max levels are associated with risks of heart disease, certain cancers, and mortality.
This is why the American Heart Association has called for it to be measured as one of the essential vital signs in clinical practice.
Stress tests are the most common way that doctors screen for potential abnormalities in heart beats. Most medical facilities don’t routinely monitor VO2 max. But VO2 max is key to a clearer picture of overall health and organ functioning.
VO2 max may be a stronger predictor of heart attacks and strokes than traditional tests. Established risk factors like high blood pressure, smoking, and type 2 diabetes may be less impactful than VO2 max levels.
This means that higher aerobic fitness levels combat common cardiac conditions. That seems to remain true even when adjusting for other data points like family history, age, and blood pressure levels. Higher cardiac fitness still attenuates the risks for morbidity and mortality.
This also seems to hold true even for obese individuals with higher VO2 max levels. But this shows that even those who are overweight should become more physically fit to protect their health!
How is it Measured?
VO2 max is best measured in a clinical setting during a stress test. This test involves exercise while wearing a mask to collect your breath samples. A machine then takes your samples and calculates the amount of oxygen you’ve consumed. This type of testing is currently hard to come by for most individuals.
How Should You Track Yours?
There are several equations used to estimate your VO2 max. These involve assessing body weight, age, gender, combined with your aerobic fitness levels.
The easiest way to measure your VO2 max is with a smartwatch such as the Apple Watch. You can set your smartwatch to measure your VO2 max automatically through one of several health apps.
How Can You Improve it?
The best way to improve your VO2 max is to increase your high intensity movement.
Cross country skiing and sports that use large muscle groups improve VO2 max levels.
But VO2 max is also affected by factors you can’t control like your genetics, age, or gender. Still, you can make immense improvements with the factors that you can control.
High intensity interval training is one great way to up your VO2 max. It involves exercising very hard for a short time, then moving into a low intensity workout. You repeat this process until you’ve finished.
Many individuals have never regularly exercised or worked out so intensely. It’s important to learn your limits to treat your body well as you build up its health. That means it’s totally fine to start with more moderately intense exercise and work your way up to the tougher stuff. You’ll still be doing your body a world of good by improving your fitness.
The Bottom Line
Tracking your VO2 max can provide valuable insights, not just about your sports performance, but also your cardiac health. Whether you are looking to run faster or learn about your heart, this can be a useful way to gather information!
To get started tracking your VO2 max, open the Health app or download the Workout app on your Apple Watch.