VO2 Testing: Its helps maximize your cardio training benefits!


VO2 Max Testing, or measuring you Oxygen Uptake is a very useful test in determining both your exercise strategy and your actual heart rate zones based upon your metabolism.

VO2 Max testing involves using a bike or treadmill as the exercise method. During increasing effort or resistance, you breath through sophisticated sensors that measure O2 intake, CO2 expelled, heart rate and other factors.

A focus of this test is to determine your Anaerobic Threshold. Your AT is generally when your CO2 output is slightly greater than your O2 intake, and means you are starting to over exert your body, or sprint. Determining your AT is important for a couple of reasons.

For weight loss it’s important because an ideal weight loss exercise program occurs below this level of intensity. The goal is to exercise for the maximum minutes at an exercise level where fat is a large fuel source.

If you are going to use interval training, like a Spinning class, precisely knowing these zones above AT is very useful for interval training to get maximum results. The test is considered maximal when your CO2 output is at least 10% higher than your O2 intake.

If you are considering having a VO2 Max test and if you are interested in any aerobic exercise program you should it is important that you have a test that is effective or provides you maximal results.

Part of whether the test protocol is sub-maximal or maximal is equipment, part is the test technician. Make sure that the testing equipment you use provides maximal results. There is a big difference between a sub-maximal test (equipment like NewLeaf, Korr, iMett, etc.), and medically based equipment (Vmax Encore, Oxycon Mobile, MedGraphics, Cortex, etc.) Sub-maximal testing takes you right to that transition point, and then tries to predict your maximal values from that point. Generally, less expensive equipment does not have the sensing sophistication to be used in athletic or medical application. Choose an exercise physiologist that has performed a large number of tests, as their ability to apply the information to you is much better!

Numerous research studies show sub-maximal testing over-estimates your fitness levels by 25-50%, and since maximum effort can have a wide range of heart rates, is likely to give you upper heart rate zones that are inaccurate. The result is likely you will not know how to focus your training because there is no VO2 max to AT ratio, and you will not have actual heart rate data about your upper training zones. So, you won’t know how much time to spend on steady state versus interval training, and your heart rate zones will be projected, not individually accurate.

The message is if you are serious about your exercise program get a VO2 Max test and if you do make sure that it is a maximal test or do not bother. They are going to cost about the same, $150-$200, but the application to your fitness is radically better with the VO2 Max test!

Neil Wolkodoff, PhD
About the Author
Neil Wolkodoff, Ph.D., director of Colorado Center for Health & Sport Science, holds advanced certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM: Health Fitness Director), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA: Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist), the U.S. Weight Lifting Federation, and the Pilates Method Alliance. He is also a level 200 certified ski coach with the USSA.

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