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A Beginner’s Guide to VO2Max

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Let’s talk about VO2Max. What is it? Why should I care? What can I use it for? I am guessing these are questions you might have, as they were all questions I had in the not so distant past. After some Google and YouTube deep dives, I felt like I had a better understanding, but most of the information was overly scientific. I wanted the practical information, simple and straightforward. But it just wasn’t there.

Without further ado, here are the basics of understanding VO2Max.

What is it?

VO2Max stands for the Volume of Oxygen – maximum. It is literally the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. This matters because the more oxygen your body can utilize, the greater your fitness level.

VO2Max is considered the gold standard to measure fitness. The bottom line is this: a higher max equates to an increased ability to intensely exercise. In order to achieve a high VO2Max, an individual must have a healthy heart, lungs, and well-conditioned lean muscle mass.

Why should I care?

Each person has two ages – a chronological age and a fitness age. In terms of your lifespan and quality of life, your fitness age is actually more important. In other words, healthy and fit individuals will have a fitness age lower than their actual age. An example of this would be the ageless beauty (actually 50) Jennifer Aniston.

Safe assumption: High VO2Max

Each person’s fitness age is based on their VO2Max. A study conducted by the journal for Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that People with a low VO2Max (and high fitness age) had an 82 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those whose fitness age was the same as, or lower than, their chronological age. 1

So again, for simplicity’s sake: if you want to add more years to your life and more life to your years, improving your VO2Max is the best thing you can do.

What are the factors that affect VO2Max?

Age, gender, genetics, body composition, and fitness level all play factors in determining VO2Max. Like many things related to health, some factors are outside of our control. But there are always ways for individuals to improve their VO2Max.

How do I improve my VO2Max? 

In short, exercise. Any regular aerobic workout can help, but the most effective form of exercise to improve VO2Max has been High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

Why should I take a VO2Max Test?

  1. To get a snapshot of your current fitness level, and how you compare to others your age.
  2. To have a baseline number that you can work on improving through training and healthy lifestyle. If you want to lose weight, you first weigh yourself. If you want to save money, you look at your current bank account. If you want to improve your fitness, measure your VO2
  3. A VO2Max Test gives you specific information on Target Training Zones based on your goals. In other words, the type and intensity of workouts you should do if you are trying to burn fat vs trying to build your speed and power are very different.

So there you have it for an introduction to VO2Max. I will leave you with a quote from a Tim Ferriss Podcast interview with Dr. Peter Diamandis: “There are two elements that tie very much to human longevity: Those people who floss…and those people who have a higher VO2Max”. 2 Food for thought…

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