Updated: 8 hours ago
By Chloe Olvera
VO2 max measures the highest amount of oxygen you can use during intense exercise. VO2 max is a great way to track cardio fitness level, overall health, and mortality. According to a policy statement by the American Heart Association in 2013, numerous studies have found that a person’s cardio fitness level is a better predictor of negative health outcomes or mortality than other risk factors such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and smoking. The AHA also stated that increasing your cardio fitness level significantly reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and/or improves your chance of recovery.
VO2 max is most accurately measured with special expensive equipment consisting of a large uncomfortable mask and a heart monitor that is worn while exercising on a treadmill or stationary bike. However, it can also be estimated by a Health and Fitness Smartwatch, such as a Fitbit. Below is a screenshot from Beyond Practice founder Dr. Kevin Pacheco’s Fitbit estimating his cardio fitness level at around 56. This is in the excellent category but top athletes often have levels above 70.
You can improve your VO2 max and cardio fitness level through high-intensity interval training (HIIT), according to a 2012 study by Astorino et al. HIIT workouts involve short periods of intense exercising that alternate with lighter recovery periods. An example of a HIIT workout for beginners is running as fast as you can for 30 seconds, jogging lightly for 1 minute, then repeating. Just make sure to warm up before and cool down after. Over time, you’ll get better at running and your cardio fitness level may even improve.
If you are just starting out with walking check out our other article on Making Your Walk a Workout. The most important thing is that you get started.
If you feel you would benefit from the help of a guided program we are here for you.