top of page

vo2 max testing

What is VO2max?

Simply put, VO2max is an abbreviation representing the volume (V) of oxygen (O)that a person can maximally consume (max) during exercise.  A VO2max “score” is typically expressed as the maximum number of milliliters of oxygen consumed per kilogram of bodyweight per minute of exercise.

How is it measured?

A VO2max test is done by measuring heart rate and all of the oxygen consumed and carbon dioxide expelled during a graded exercise test, typically on a treadmill or stationary cycle, using a VO2max measurement device. 

It is similar in most ways to a cardiac stress test, but with a simple chest-strap heart rate monitor in place of EKG electrodes.  A mask is fitted covering the nose and mouth (like a CPAP mask) and connected through a hose to the measurement device.  The test begins slowly, and gradually increases in intensity over several minutes.  As exercise intensity increases, the demand for oxygen increases.  The changes in oxygen/CO2 determine the aerobic (AeT) and anaerobic (AT) thresholds, and these and the associated heart rates are measured.  When the person has reached an intensity at which carbon dioxide production exceeds oxygen consumption and they can no longer continue, they have reached their VO2max.

Who needs a VO2max test?

While VO2max is most often associated with high level athletics or cardiac complications, it is also a valuable metric for exercise prescription and risk assessment; low cardiovascular fitness is associated with cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and cancer risks, while regular exercise at the proper intensity can improve VO2max and reduce those risks.  A known VO2max score and the heart rates representing an individuals aerobic and anaerobic thresholds can be a valuable tool for tracking exercise intensity, as well as training improvements in VO2max over time.

Is the test accurate?

At EPT, we use the Korr CardioCoach system.  Each test requires a new baseline calibration to the temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity of the space used for testing before determining the individual’s baseline.  Research by the University of Oregen and Western Kentucky have demonstrated the validity of this method of VO2max testing.

bottom of page