VO2Max – how to measure and improve your fitness

Everyone knows about the importance of breathing. The human being can live without food for 30 days, without water for three days - and without air for three minutes.

Breathing is of fundamental importance to not only our existence, but also to our overall well-being and the way we are able to perform. Proper breathing can improve so many aspects of our daily life, such as mood, sleep and performance.

In sports, performance and the efficiency of your body to create energy depends on the amount of oxygen you are able to consume. There is a standard test to measure this ability: it’s called the VO2Max fitness test, a test which is not only a reliable indicator for athletes but also for anyone who wants to know their cardiovascular fitness level.


The importance of VO2Max

VO2Max is generally regarded as the best indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness. V stands for volume, O2 represents the O2 oxygen symbol. The higher the VO2Max, the more oxygen the body can use – and the better the person’s aerobic fitness, which is another term for cardivascular endurance, describing how much oxygen the heart can pump and how much of that oxygen the skeletal muscles can use.

VO2Max can give important insights by revealing how much oxygen your body is able to consume and utilize during maximum effort. Good VO2Max values point to higher performance and efficiency, low VO2Max values point to cardiorespiratory and therefore performance deficiencies. The correct analysis will assist healthy athletes to further improve their athletic performance. Personalized data is also the key for improvement suggestions for anyone whose fitness is subpar or who is recovering from injury or surgery.


How to do a VO2Max test

At the Bumrungrad Sports Medicine & Joint Cetner, there are two ways to conduct a Vo2Max test: either on a treadmill or on a stationary bicycle. A breathing mask worn during the test is hooked up to the smart Dynostics system.

The system takes about 15 minutes and measures the rate and contents of the air being breathed out through the mask. During the test, speed and resistance are increased gradually until you reach your maximum exertion level. This will be your VO2Max. Often it is also the point when lactic acid build-up in muscles reaches a level that begins to affect muscle performance, which is known as your lactic threshold.

The individual VO2Max serves Bumrungrad’s sports medicine specialists as basis to custom-tailor exercise programs and nutrition suggestions. Based on this report, Bumrungrad’s team can provide a personalized exercise program so that you are able to follow as a daily routine to helps you improve your fitness. The aim is to improve the efficiency of converting oxygen into energy, which in turn will improve your overall cardiovascular fitness level.


How to improve your VO2Max

As outlined, VO2Max depends on the amount of blood the heart can pump and how much oxygen the muscles can take up. With this in mind, anyone can start to train one’s VO2Max at home, in the gym or at the local park.

Many running coaches, for instance, recommend training at around 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate. This helps to strengthen the muscles in your heart and to increase the volume of blood it can pump with each beat. You can approximate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

Furthermore, several studies recommend interval training to improve VO2Max: alternating short periods of high-intensity activity with periods of rest. Then combine interval and continuous training and keep challenging yourself.

Furthermore, some higher-end fitness trackers already offer VO2Max readings. Yet, these readings are basic and are indirect as they don’t measure gas exchange directly. Self-training plans may lack the insights that professional data and analysis provide.

Taking a VO2Max test at Bumrungrad’s Sports Medicine & Joint Cetnr is fast and easy. It provides you with a detailed, individual exercise plan custom-tailored to your fitness level and goals.

Since the test requires physical exertion, being supervised by a team of sports science experts also provides an added measure of safety and peace of mind.


Not only for athletes

Knowing one’s VO2Max metric is not only recommended for athletes and people who work out regularly. You may want to have your VO2Max tested even if you’re not physically active. This will allow you to know where exactly your fitness level currently is.

The test is also useful for post-operative patients who are preparing for physical therapy and those resuming fitness activities after recovering from injury or surgery. With the baseline fitness level established, the test can be redone at intervals to assess the extend of the recovery progress.


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