Your VO2 max tells you how much oxygen your body uses during exercise of increasing intensity, also referred to as maximal oxygen uptake. It represents the functionality of your central factors, including heart, lungs and blood, and your peripheral factors like skeletal muscles. If your heart and lungs are high functioning they are able to transport more oxygen to your muscles more efficiently, giving you more energy during exercise. The higher your VO2 max, the more efficient your central and peripheral factors are and thus, the fitter you are.
Your VO2 max is important because lower aerobic fitness has been linked to an increased risk of a number of cardiovascular diseases, all-cause mortality and mortality from cancer. In fact, in 2016 the American Heart Association published a statement that recommended that VO2 max should be ‘regularly assessed and utilized as a clinical vital sign. Higher aerobic fitness, characterized by a higher VO2 max, is consistently associated with a better quality of life, reduced risk for all-cause mortality and diseases such as diabetes, cancer, stroke and heart disease; as explored in a study published in 1999 in the European Journal of Pediatrics.
A longitudinal study spanning 14 years examined the effects of improving aerobic fitness (by tracking VO2 max) on risk factors for cardiovascular disease in a group of participants. Researchers found that a higher VO2 max was statistically correlated to a healthier cardiovascular disease risk profile, based on key markers like total serum cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, blood pressure and body fat.
If you are interested in improving your aerobic fitness for health reasons, or you are an athlete trying to improve your performance – tracking your VO2 max is the best way to go.
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