If you’re into any kind of cardiovascular fitness there are all kinds of devices, protocols and methods to help you up your game. One of which is the VO2 Max test which has been used by professional fitness coaches for decades.
Like most technologies, the barriers to entry lower as it becomes less expensive and more accessible which opens it up to non-professionals but equally keen enthusiasts.
Over the last few years, more VO2 Max tests have become available which is to do with lower costs and consumer appetite to increase fitness performance through technology and data.
VO2 Max decreases with age so the earlier you have it tested the more you can start benchmarking your longevity protocol.
What is the VO2 Max test?
In simple terms, the VO2 Max test is a way to measure your body’s ability to use oxygen. The more oxygen you can consume while performing during high-intensity exercise the better. Some claim it to be the gold standard for measuring aerobic fitness and cardiovascular endurance.
A VO2 Max test allows you to test how much oxygen-rich blood the heart can pump around the body and how efficient the muscles are of making use of that oxygen.
It’s calculated by measuring the volume of oxygen you consume while doing aerobic activity usually on a treadmill or stationary bike.
The volume (V) of oxygen (O2) (Max)imises during the activity and your heart is beating at its maximum. After some calculations you get your VO2 Max reading.
Most VO2 Max testing centres will also track your heart rate zones so you’ll receive an analysis of that too.
How to get a VO2 Max test
Most tests are done in a sports science lab of some kind. To find the one nearest to you do a Google search of your town or city along with ‘VO2 Max test’. It’s then simply a case of making a booking for the most convenient day.
You’re required to fast with only for eight hours beforehand so it’s best to do a test on the morning so you’re not feeling hungry.
Usually cyclists will do a test on the stationary bike and runners on the treadmill. If you’re a triathlete then test it doing your preferred discipline. Or, if you’re really keen, test it doing both.
Once in a test centre, you’ll hook up to a computer via an oxygen mask which takes the reading. From there you’ll be instructed to start running (or cycling, I did mine on the treadmill) to the point of almost exhaustion. This lasts for around 20 minutes and by which time you’ll be pretty much depleted of your energy.
How much does the VO2 Max test cost?
It varies from place to place. Some universities with sports science facilities provide a VO2 Max test to the public. Sometimes you can get a good deal on them as it will be a student doing the test under the supervision of a teacher.
A VO2 Max test will cost around £80 to £150 depending on where you get it done. You’ll pay in the upper end if you’re having it done in London or from a premium sports science company.
Do I recommend the VO2 Max test?
As well as professional sports people here’s who else will benefit from a VO2 Max test.
- People interested in longevity. By doing regular tests you’ll be able to measure and manage how age is impacting your aerobic fitness and cardiovascular endurance.
- People looking to improve their fitness levels. If your fitness levels are in the OK-range and you want to improve to, say, do a triathlon or a 10k run then a VO2 Max test will show you how your training is impacting your fitness.
- People involved in competitive events like running, cycling and triathlon. Chances are you already do.