VO2 Max Reveals Level of Fitness
When I was a kid, math was never my strongest subject. To the chagrin of my teachers, I tried to make the math, “make sense” by equating it with the simplicity of speaking. The only problem, was that math isn’t debatable.
In my mind, math should have made as much sense as putting a sentence together for English class. Requesting this justification from my math teacher, ended up in their futile response of “because Billy, these are the ‘rules’ of math.” The answer alone, was something I just couldn’t reconcile.
This difficulty, naturally made me dread any kind of math challenge that had an exponent, variable, parenthesis or algorithm. Unfortunately, my pursuit of exercise sciences exposed me to the math beast that always haunted me. The outcome however was better, since my anxiety of numbers was replaced by a desire on how to use them when assessing capabilities of the human body. Walking through that proverbial door, was a well known measure of fitness, more commonly referred to as VO2 max.
The translation of “VO2” max stands for volume (v), oxygen (O2) and maximum or “max.” It carries significant value in all sports and exercise, whether a person is running to the mailbox or lifting weights.
Simply defined, it represents a person’s ability to transport and use oxygen during the increased demands of exercise. When a muscles demand for oxygen can not be met adequately, the body is said to be in an “anaerobic” (without oxygen) state.
The measurement of a person’s VO2 max, is most effectively performed in a clinical atmosphere and is measured by the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) a person exhales during increased levels of difficulty on a stationary bicycle or treadmill. More specifically, it measures the milliliters of oxygen used per kilogram of body-weight per minute.
Often, the difficulty of this test is not based only on fitness, but the apparatus the person being tested must wear to measure the amount of carbon dioxide consumed and the amount of inhaled air. The mask, which is worn over the mouth is uncomfortable and psychologically is difficult to manage as the work-load increases.
The challenge of VO2 max testing is the danger that exists with individuals who are not considered healthy enough to test. The demands of the VO2 max test can seriously accelerate the chance for injury for clinically ill patients. As a result, a similar test called a sub-maximal test was developed for at-risk individuals taking this exam. A sub maximal test avoids the extreme aspects of testing for VO2 max but still yields information that helps determines a persons overall cardiovascular fitness.
While there are a variety of factors that effect a person’s VO2 max scores, the bottom line is that proper training and monitoring of heart rate coupled with training intensity can prepare a person for improved scores.
Ultimately, improvement of VO2 scores at any age is possible. Should the opportunity ever present itself, it would behoove any fitness zealot, runner or competitive athlete to have their VO2 measured and evaluated.