What if I asked you, why is VO2 max important for your fitness and health? Would you know the answer? It wasn’t until a couple of years ago I could have answered yes to this question. Your health is vital to a long life, but fitness plays an intricate part in your well-being. Not to mention the amount of oxygen you carry to your body is a vital piece of the entire puzzle.
What is a VO2 Max?
VO2 max is the volume of oxygen maximum. Or the maximum volume of oxygen your body can use during high-intensity exercise.
With a higher VO2 max, your body can utilize more oxygen and use this oxygen to generate more ATP for energy.
There are a couple of variables in the equation, such as how well your heart is pumping and how well you are taking in oxygen.
Athletes have a higher VO2 max than an average person, and men overall have a higher VO2 max than women.
How Do We Measure VO2 Max?
A measurement of your VO2 max can be a fairly complicated process. The easiest way is to have a laboratory test run under the supervision of your physician. But you can use an equation and determine the volume on your own.
To find out what your VO2 max is on your own, you will need to follow some steps and then plug the numbers into this equation for a proper oxygen volume.
- First, find your resting heart rate. The best time to do this is just before you rise in the morning. You can check it manually or with a fitness watch. If you are checking it manually, the best place to obtain an accurate reading is the carotid artery, as seen in the photo. I recommend you check it for a full one minute. You can use a stopwatch or a second hand on a watch.
- Second, find your maximum heart rate. There are a few ways to determine this number. I will give you the one formula that has proven to be the most accurate.
- Now that you have what you need to determine your VO2 max let’s use this equation.
Here is an example of how to use this formula. If your resting heart rate is 80 and your ma heart rate is 195. Plugin your numbers where these example numbers are, and you have your VO2 Max.
Why Is VO2 Max Important For Your Health?
It is common knowledge that a lack of exercise contributes to cardiovascular disease. But how can the knowledge of your VO2 max help prevent heart disease? Or, for that matter, how can it help your health in general.
Your VO2 max is not directly related to the prevention of heart disease. It comes in from the backside. Since the VO2 max reading is a measure of how well you distribute oxygen to your body, the higher your VO2 max is, the more likely your heart is pumping well.
The measurement can be used when performing a cardiac stress test. When you are on the treadmill doing your testing, your VO2 max can tell the physician what the oxygen output is to your muscles and organs. The higher the reading, the healthier you are.
But at the same time, if your reading is low and your heart checks out fine, you can increase your VO2 max with increased exercise, thereby preventing the beginning of heart disease.
Not only does an increased VO2 max help your body stay younger, but it can also decrease the chance of dementia or Alzheimers. The higher intensity of exercise you do, the more you will increase your oxygen-carrying capacity to your brain.
A study regarding VO2 max and the oxygen to the brain suggests that maintaining or improving your exercise as you age may slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimers.
Why Is VO2 Max Important For Athletic Performance?
VO2 max in athletic performance is a controversial issue. Since we are testing how well you can dump oxygen into your muscles, it can be useful. But it is not an all conclusive piece of the equation.
Let’s say you are a basketball player who has his or her VO2 max checked. The results come back low, but your performance on the field has impressed all. You can dunk and outrun your component down the court.
But, there is always a but; if your endurance is low you are often exhausted before halftime comes around. In this case, your VO2 max was a good indicator that you are not pushing enough oxygen to your muscles to produce the energy you need.
This information can help your trainer know the best way to increase your endurance or VO2 max. A trainer can push you to increase your VO2 max with longer running periods or any long exercise routine. Just lifting weights may not be enough to push you that extra mile and get more oxygen to your muscles.
Why is it controversial? Just knowing your VO2 max will not make you a better athlete. But wanting to become better and pushing beyond the limits can make you a better athlete. A VO2 max score is only a tool for your trainer to know how to train you to your maximum ability.
What Can Your DNA Say About Your VO2 Max?
Contrary to popular belief, when you have your DNA tested for your VO2 max, it does not determine the numbers. It is to find out what your genetic tendencies are. Your DNA can tell you what your body is capable of accomplishing.
You ask, why is this important? It is a way to help your trainer or physician see what your genetic baseline is. If you are a runner and need to build endurance, but your VO2 max is lower than expected, the DNA test can determine what your biomarkers say. The trainer can then know the best way to train you to increase your VO2 max.
In other words, if you need to increase your VO2 max, but your DNA says you have a low genetic marker, then your trainer will know to take it slow when building your VO2 max. If you push too hard or too fast, it can go against the grain of your body. To know this information is to empower your body to work for itself.
So what if you are an athlete and your DNA comes back to say you tend to have a low VO2 max? Not to worry. If you desire to build your endurance, you can do so. Your DNA tells you your inheritance, not your motivation. You can become anything you set your mind to.
Your VO2 max plays a crucial part in your health and fitness. Every part of your body needs oxygen to survive. To create energy, your muscles have to have oxygen to produce ATP on the cellular level.
Your VO2 max can determine how much oxygen-carrying capacity your lungs have to carry an increased amount of oxygen to your organs and muscles.
You can increase your VO2 max and build endurance or strengthen your heart and brain. A DNA test to determine your genetic VO2 max tendencies is beneficial for your physician and trainer to understand better how hard to push you and how fast to increase your levels.