Do You Know Your Vo2 Max?

by | Aug 17, 2016 | Fitness

By Amy Rankin
You’ve probably heard the term “Vo2 Max” before, but while most of us know it has something to do with our fitness level, that’s where the understanding ends.

What is Vo2 max?

To put it simply, your Vo2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body takes in while you exercise at your maximum capacity.
Amy Getting ready to take her Vo2 Max test

WH tests it

I was invited to take part in a comprehensive fitness and health assessment hosted by the Powerade Train like An Olympian Academy at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA). First, I was weighed and measured, then strapped up with a heart-rate monitor. I then had to do a warm-up run on speed 8 (8km/hour) for five minutes on the treadmill. After warming up, a breathing mask was strapped to my face (admittedly, I felt a bit claustrophobic and it took a few minutes for me to get used to the feeling). This then measures the litres of oxygen consumed per minute while you run.
The test started on speed 8 and, every minute, the speed increased by 0.5km/hour until I felt like I could not run anymore. Not wanting to push myself past the point of exhaustion and vomiting, I made it to 15.5km/hour and hopped off to the side. After a minute of recovery, I felt like I could’ve pushed harder and was disappointed with myself. But this is apparently very common. I walked away with a measurement of 51. According to my age group (Female, 26-35yrs), this is what that number indicates:
52 = excellent.
Amy Rankin taking the Vo2 Max test

Why is it beneficial?

Your Vo2 Max is a measurement of how fit you really are, in terms of your training status and your body’s endurance capacity. Once you know the level you’re at, training programmes can be tailored to help you improve your fitness level.
If you’re a cyclist, swimmer, runner, canoeist or do any other endurance sport, this kind of test is particularly useful for training and goal-setting. While Vo2 was previously thought of as a test for elite athletes, more and more everyday fitsters are getting assessed.
Want to know where you’re at? Discovery Vitality has a Vitality Elite Fitness Assessment offering (read more about it at, but you can also visit any high-performance centre or participating university for a test. These include SSISA (Cape Town), University of Pretoria, University of Johannesburg, North West University (Potchefstroom), Prime High Performance Institute (Durban), University of Stellenbosch and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (PE).

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