What is VO2 Max?

VO2 max is a measurement of your cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity

The term VO2 max refers to the maximum rate at which your body can consume oxygen during physical activity. It is most commonly used to measure cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance and is defined in terms of the volume of oxygen consumed in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute.

As a physical activity’s intensity increases, so does the body’s rate of oxygen consumption. However, each individual has a certain threshold where the rate of oxygen consumption will plateau despite a continued increase in exercise intensity and workload. This threshold is known as your body’s maximum rate of oxygen consumption, or VO2 max.

VO2 max varies greatly among individuals and is dependent upon several different factors including gender, weight or body mass, age, genetics and even altitude.

The higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen you’ll be able to deliver to your muscles. In other words, the higher your VO2 max the better your body can perform and endure physical activity.

Although one group of scientists determined that your genes can account for 25 to 50% of your VO2 max, there are training techniques you can use to increase your body’s capacity for oxygen uptake.

According to Runner’s World, French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat discovered that the best way to improve your VO2 max is by running intervals at a speed that prompts your body to work at your current VO2 max threshold. In other words, spend two to five minutes of a speed workout training at maximum effort.

Related: What is EPOC? (And Can it Really Help You Burn Extra Calories?)