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Module 1: Maximal oxygen uptake

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How is VO2 max. measured?

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Physical Education - How is VO2 max. measured?

VO2 max values

The value you are given by the test administrator will be in one of two
forms. The first is called your absolute VO2 max. This value will be in
litres/minute and will probably be between 3.0 and 6.0 litres/minute for a
man and between 2.5 and 4.5 litres/minute for a woman. This absolute value
does not take into account differences in body size, so a second way of
expressing VO2 max. is common. This is called your relative VO2 max. It
will be expressed in millilitres per minute per kilogram body weight
(ml/min/kg). So if your absolute VO2 max. was 4.0 litres/minute and you
weighed 75 kg, then your relative VO2 max. would be 4000 divided by 75, or
53.3 ml/min/kg. In general, absolute VO2 max. favours the large endurance
athlete, while relative VO2 tends to be higher in smaller athletes.

For comparison, the average maximal oxygen consumption [1] of an untrained
male in his mid 30s is about 40-45 ml/min/kg, and decreases with age. The
same person who undergoes a regular endurance exercise program might
increase to 50-55 ml/min/kg.

A champion male Masters runner aged 50 will probably have a value of over
60 ml/min/kg. An Olympic champion 10,000 metre runner will probably have a
value approaching over 80 ml/min/kg! What about females? It is important to
realise that training alone did not make the Olympic champion so different.
His VO2 max. without any training at all would probably be about 65 to 70
ml/min/kg. Clearly, training is important, but favourable genetics are
critical!

One more thing: before you get too impressed with that runner shown on the
television, remember that humans pale in comparison to a lot of "animal
athletes". The VO2 of a thoroughbred horse is about 600 litres/min or 150
ml/min/kg!

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