A measure of the highest rate at which a particular person is able to consume oxygen. It is usually measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. Though influenced by genes, it can be increased by fitness training.
A typical adult male in good health has a VO2 max of 38. The highest levels of VO2 max are found in high-performing athletes in sports that use a large percentage of the muscles in the body, such as rowers and cross-country skiers, who may reach levels above 90 mL/kg/min. VO2 max declines with age.
The most reliable method of determining VO2 max involves a treadmill or stationary fitness bicycle, and a breathing apparatus that absorbs carbon dioxide while measuring the amount of oxygen consumed per unit time. As the intensity of exercise is increased, consumption of oxygen also increases. However, a point is reached at which the consumption of oxygen does not increase. The rate at this plateau is the VO2 max.
The breathing apparatus described is not commonplace, so various other methods of estimating VO2 max have been developed. Many of these are represented on the web. Try:
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Last revised: 20 April 2011.