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January 18, 2017
VO2 Max Testing: Measure Exactly How Fit You Are
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By Gordon Cohen, MD and Heather Marsh, Director of 20/20 LifeStyles

Oftentimes athletes, and even ordinary exercise enthusiasts, want to understand their overall level of fitness. This is something that can actually be objectively measured. A test called “maximal oxygen uptake” or “VO2 max” is one measure by which athletes can determine their capacity to sustain exercise. In general, the test is a measure of an individual’s cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. The idea behind the test is that the more oxygen one is capable of using during exercise, the more energy can be produced during exercise. Highly trained or elite athletes end up having very high VO2 max values. This means that we can all improve upon and affect our VO2 max with exercise.

What is VO2 Max?

The VO2 max exercise test is a highly sensitive, non-invasive stress test. It’s considered a stress test because the exercise stresses your body’s systems by making them work faster and harder.

Your current health status and current level of participation in exercise will limit how much faster and harder your heart, lungs, and muscles can work.

The VO2 max assesses how well these systems are working individually, as well as how they’re working in unison.

Your heart and lungs will deliver oxygen to your muscles, where it’s used to make energy, and to remove any byproducts from your body.

The VO2 max test will assess this cardiopulmonary system by measuring the amount of oxygen your body is using, the amount of carbon dioxide it is producing, your breathing pattern and heart rate while walking and/or running on a traditional treadmill.

What do you get out of the VO2 max test?

The VO2 max exercise test will determine your true maximal heart rate, peak oxygen consumption (VO2), cross-over point and accurate heart rate training zones. It will also tell you your current fitness level and training workout zones.

Peak VOis the most accurate measurement of functional capacity and is a useful index of overall health. It is a measurement of oxygen consumption during exercise.

Respiratory Compensation (RC) is the moment when the breathing rate becomes excessive with respect to carbon dioxide output. Bicarbonate maxes out and to accommodate, hyperventilation begins.

Lactate Threshold (LT) is an estimation of the point at which lactate accumulation in the blood occurs. This estimation has been used to study the limits of performance in healthy individuals.

Crossover Concept is an estimation at which the contribution of fat energy production becomes matched by that of carbohydrates. During the VO2 exercise test, the measurement of oxygen and carbon dioxide can be used in an equation to determine the respiratory exchange ratio (RER). The RER can estimate what substrate you are using at the various levels of exercise intensity.

How do you use the results of the the test?

The first step in using this information is to set your fitness-related goals. For example, you might want to lose weight, train for your first 5K or train for a half or full marathon.

This test will provide your target workout zones such as your RC, LT, crossover point, low intensity zone, moderate intensity zone and high intensity zone. Deciding what exercise intensity to work at will be determined by your goal.

Next, find a program design. Your program design will include your mode (type of exercise), duration and intensity. You can find this information online or in a book, however, we highly recommend working with a personal trainer who will be able to customize your program and progress it as your fitness level begins to improve.

We currently offer the VO2 max test as a service. Schedule your VO2 max test in the Medical Center at PRO Sports club by contacting the 20/20 LifeStyles Front Desk at (425) 861-6285.

Written by Admin

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