Know your VO2 Max

Know your VO2 Max

Find your lung capacity

What is VO2 max and how does it relate to lung capacity? VO2 is technically the Volume of Oxygen (V O2 measured in liters per minute per kilogram of body weight) consumed during an exhaustive workout. The test measures the difference between the oxygen that you breath in and the level of oxygen in your exhalation some is converted to carbon dioxide and water.

Lung capacity is a function of age, gender, fitness and can be influenced by altitude. As you become more physically fit you will improve your aerobic capacity and reduce your resting heart rate. Improving VO2 peak requires training in the upper regions of your heart rate zone.

Measurement of aerobic capacity requires spirometry equipment. Unless you are a world class athlete, this type of equipment would typically only be found in a clinical lab. However, there are a number of methods to measure VO2. A VO2 Max Calculator is a simple way of estimating your lung capacity.

Typical Maximum VO2 for Non Athletes

Age Men Women
10-19 47-56 38-46
20-29 43-52 33-42
30-39 39-48 30-38
40-49 36-44 26-35
50-59 34-41 24-33
60-69 31-38 22-30
70-79 28-35 20-27

The best athletes in the world have max lung capacities in the 85-96 ml/kg/min for males and 57-73 ml/kg/min for females. Below is a table for non-athletes. So measuring your VO2 peak and comparing it to typical levels to world class athletic levels will indicate where you are in your fitness.

Improve Peak VO2

Genetic factors can limit your VO2 maximum but there are still lots you can do to limit the declines caused by aging. There have been estimates that you reach 100% of VO2 max at 90-100% of your max heart rate. Exercising in the aerobic range of your heart rate will typically give you the greatest improvement in max VO2 early in your fitness conditioning. As you increase your fitness, short bursts to 90-95% of max heart rate will help improve lung capacity. Make sure to return your heart rate to the aerobic range between bursts into anaerobic ranges.

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