During my little exercise metabolic test, Personal Trainer Jordan dropped an interesting little nugget of information. He said that a person’s VO2 max is correlated with disease risk. So of course I had to go home and look it up. Turns out he’s even more right than he knows.
If you remember (and who can blame you if you don’t) your VO2 max is your maximal oxygen uptake and “is widely accepted as the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power.” So of course it is a fun number for us competitive types to know. But it turns out there is an even better reason to know your number.
Danish researchers examined 86 men and 115 women, all between the ages of 23 and 27. They tested their VO2 max. They then studied their physical activity, blood pressure, blood lipids, body fat and smoking habits.
As expected, a greater VO2 max (remember the average sedentary man’s is 45 and the woman’s is 38 – Lance Armstrong’s is in the 90’s) was significantly correlated with a better cardiovascular profile. This means that the higher the VO2 max, the lower the LDL cholesterol, body fat, and blood pressure.
Here’s the kicker: Physical activity was not correlated with a better cardiovascular profile.
If you want to lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat and bikini inhibitions, then your workouts need to be intense enough to increase your VO2 max. If better heart health is your goal, it isn’t enough just to be physically active (although physical activity of any intensity has numerous other benefits). You have to keep pushing yourself. Never get comfortable! Wow, that came out sounding a lot harsher than I meant it to. You know what I mean.
More Interesting VO2 Tidbits – you know, in case you’re ever lacking in interesting dinner party conversation.
– As we age, we lose about 1% of our VO2 max per year after age 25. But if we keep exercising, we only lose 0.5%!
– A higher VO2 max is correlated with a decrease in symptoms of the scary metabolic syndrome (Scary because it’s a precursor to diabetes. Which is scary because you could lose toes. Or, you know, your life.)
– Your VO2 max can be used to predict your athletic performance.
– VO2 max is an “excellent predictor” of a heart attack.
So, next time you see your doctor and he orders up the standard tests, see if he’ll throw in a VO2 max test. Ask nicely. And maybe bring a buy-one-get-one-free coupon. Don’t have one? Make your own! Health insurers love those kinds of antics. They’ll give you points just for creativity.
Note: Dr. J posted a link to his article on VO2 max in the comments section and I thought it was so fabulous that I’m putting out here. Definitely check it out for more information!