VO₂-max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. Learn more about activity that increases oxygen uptake. It is also called maximum oxygen uptake or maximum aerobic capacity.
There is no final decision on what VO₂ max should be, and it will vary from individual to individual and the fitness level of each individual.
Elite athletes usually have high VO₂ max. Increasing oxygen uptake enhances the potential to perform at a high level in your sport. However, it is not the only factor that determines success. Other factors such as lactation threshold and muscular endurance also play an essential role in maximizing performance.
Even if you are not an athlete, higher VO₂ max can potentially improve the general level of cardiovascular fitness with benefits such as:
- live longer
- better quality of life
- reduced stroke risk
- reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- improved mood
- better sleep
Tips to improve your VO₂ max
You can increase VO₂-max in two ways: by increasing the amount of blood your heart can deliver and by increasing the amount of oxygen your muscles can absorb. The following tips can help you develop these two components.
You can train VO₂-max most effectively by working at high intensity. Many people recommend exercise at around 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate. Working close to your maximum heart rate helps strengthen the heart’s muscles and increase the blood volume that it can deliver with each beat. You can find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 (220 age).
A 2013 review found that interval training provides slightly better oxygen uptake than continuous aerobic training. Interval training consists of short alternating periods of high-intensity activity with rest periods.
Combine intervals and pace training
Incorporating interval and pace training into your training program can be more effective than just performing one-sided exercises.
Many studies have found the most significant increase in VO₂-max has used a 10-week training program consisting of six training sessions per week.
In the first study using this program, participants continued to see increases in VO₂-max toward the end, but participants began to drop out because it became too challenging.
Keep challenging yourself
When you first try to increase your oxygen uptake, virtually any type of endurance workout is likely to affect you positively. As you become more well-trained, the gains will be slower, and you will need to practice at a higher level to continue to improve. You can make the training more challenging by increasing how often you exercise, the duration of the activity, or how fast you move during the exercise.
Find out how fast you are at 5 and 10 km
If you run, it can be helpful to know how fast you can run 5 kilometers and 10 kilometers. The pace at which you can run these two distances roughly correlates with the speed you need to run to achieve 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate.