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Knowing Your VO2 Max Can Revolutionize Your Fitness Plan

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Knowing Your VO2 Max Can Revolutionize Your Fitness Plan

Since Cooper Aerobics’ inception, it’s been our purpose to improve the quality and quantity of people’s life through prevention. Helping people improve their heart health and decrease their risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke—the number one and number four killers of Americans—and numerous other chronic diseases through exercise has been a primary focus of our work.

The science is clear—fitness is a vital sign™. Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, is known worldwide as the “Father of Aerobics” after first demonstrating the benefits of cardiovascular activity in his 1968 bestseller Aerobics. This book inspired millions across the world to join the fitness revolution and begin exercising for good health.

The heart and lungs play an essential role in providing oxygen to the muscles during exercise—as your exercise intensity increases so does your oxygen consumption. The benefits of cardiovascular exercise include: 

  • Increased heart strength
  • Increased metabolism
  • Enhanced lung capacity
  • Improved circulation

The more aerobically fit you are, the greater your body’s capacity to transport and use oxygen. Therefore, the most important measure of cardiovascular fitness is maximal oxygen consumption, known as VO2 max.

Why your VO2 max is a number worth knowing
VO2 max is the maximum (max) rate (V) of oxygen (O₂) your body can use during exercise, measured in milliliters per kilogram of total body weight per minute. Based on your VO2 max, you’re placed into one of six categories of fitness:

  • Superior
  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor
  • Very Poor 

In 1989, The Cooper Institute published its landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association proving fitness is good for your health. The research shows even moving from the ‘Very Poor’ to the ‘Poor’ fitness level decreases the risk of death from all causes by 58%. Since then, The Cooper Institute’s research has continually proven higher levels of measured fitness significantly reduce mortality and morbidity and improve quality of life. For example, research shows being fit:

A 2018 study by the Biocenter in Medical University Innsbruck found that increasing VO2 max can improve the delivery and use of oxygen by your body, maintaining your health and physical fitness well into your later years.

The study also found daily benefits you may begin noticing within days or weeks of starting to improve your VO2 max, such as:

  • Being less exhausted or winded doing activities such as climbing stairs
  • Reducing your stress levels and sleeping better
  • Boosting your immune system and getting sick less often

VO2 max is a good benchmark for measuring your cardiovascular fitness levels because it literally tells you how well your body is using oxygen.

Knowing your fitness level and VO2 max is important as it directly relates to your health. VO2 max is also a strong predictor of your quality of life as you age. It’s worth tracking to find and maintain a good or higher VO2 max score to help you stay healthy throughout your life.

For athletes who want to improve their performance through cardiovascular exercise, VO2 max testing is a must for assessing their fitness and measuring their progress over time.

What’s a good VO2 max?
A score in the 40s for males under 50 is considered a good VO2 stat, and a score of 35 to 40 is considered good for females under 50.

VO2 max depends on a few key factors:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Use of tobacco
  • Amount of physical activity

Some of these factors, such as age and gender, are uncontrollable, but the others are manageable. And remember, no drug can replicate the benefits of an active lifestyle.

How to determine VO2 max
In the 1960s, Dr. Kenneth Cooper proved there is a high correlation between the distance someone can run in 12 minutes and their VO2 max value. Still one of the basic fitness tests used by the military as well as coaches and fitness trainers to determine cardiovascular fitness and track fitness over time, the 12-minute run—known interchangeably as the Cooper Test—allows you to compare your cardiovascular fitness with others of your age and gender.

The CooperFit™ cardiovascular fitness test provides an accurate prediction of fitness by measuring an individual's predicted max VO2. The test is performed by walking one mile or running 12 minutes—as fast as you can—on a treadmill while wearing a heart rate monitor.

Cooper Clinic also estimates VO2 max as a part of its preventive health exam using the treadmill stress test. Patients walk or run on the treadmill while connected to an electrocardiogram. In addition to measuring the patients’ VO2 max, the treadmill stress test EKG shows any abnormalities in heart rhythm and can also indicate if the patient has had prior heart damage.

Predicted VO2 max provides doctors and fitness professionals with a foundation on which to build a personalized training program to help increase your VO2 max and improve overall fitness. Subsequent tests annually, or as recommended by your doctor, will show in black and white whether or not you have been keeping up with your fitness. Measuring your VO2 max can help keep you accountable in your exercise routine and motivate you to live a longer, healthier and active life.

To learn more about cardiovascular fitness testing at Cooper, visit or call 972.560.2667

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.