Monitoring your maximum VO2 with wearables Why is it necessary to do so How to measure things accurately

The VO2 max was formerly a feature that was exclusive to the most expensive sports watches. Still, it has now found its way into a wide variety of popular activity trackers, smartwatches, and other gadgets. Everything you need to know about this metric is included in the following guide.

So, what exactly is meant by the term “VO2 max”

A measurement known as VO2 max determines how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you are exerting yourself to your physical limits. It is a significant factor in determining an individual’s endurance capacity during prolonged physical activity and reflects the individual’s aerobic physical fitness level. To put it another way, a higher VO2 max indicates greater overall fitness. Results can vary based on factors such as fitness level, sex, age, and heredity; generally speaking, your VO2 max is believed to be lower as you get older. The VO2 max of men also tends to be higher than that of women, on average.

The term comes from the words “volume” and “oxygen,” and “maximum” completes the phrase. Either as an absolute rate in liters of oxygen per minute (L/min) or as a relative rate in (for example) milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body mass per minute (e.g., mL/(kg min)), it can be represented either as an absolute rate or as a relative rate. It is most possible that the latter phrase will be found on the fitness tracker or sports watch that you use.

Running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike is the traditional method for determining a person’s VO2 max. The intensity of the exercise is gradually increased. At the same time, a mask attached to your face measures ventilation and the concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air that is inhaled and exhaled by the subject. You have hit your VO2 max when your oxygen intake remains unchanged despite increasing your workload, often known as when you are completely exhausted.

Everyone who has ever been subjected to a VO2 max test in a conventional laboratory environment will attest to the fact that it is not the most enjoyable of experiences. This can now be accomplished with significantly less toil and distress, to our great relief. The results will not be as accurate as those you’d get from a test conducted in a laboratory, but they do indicate rather reliable estimates.

To arrive at an initial value, activity trackers begin by combining various pieces of personal information, including the wearer’s age, gender, weight, and resting heart rate. During your runs, wearables exploit the relationship between your pace and your heart rate to provide a score that is more accurate. People with a greater VO2 max have a lower heart rate while jogging at the same pace as those with a lower VO2 max. This is because higher VO2 max allows for more oxygen to be consumed during exercise.

You will need to run for at least ten minutes to complete this. It is customarily necessary that you carry out this action using a gadget that is also capable of tracking GPS. To get a more accurate score, you might need to complete multiple runs that are at least ten minutes long. When compared to laboratory tests, it is believed that this procedure can obtain an accuracy level of 95 percent. You need to make sure that you run on flat terrains when you are measuring, as your measurement results could be skewed if you ran uphill or downhill while you were measuring.

Why should I make it a priority to enhance my VO2 max

There are several different advantages associated with increasing your VO2 max. When you improve your fitness, you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also feel less stressed, and you’ll find that your day-to-day life is a lot easier. You’ll see improvements in your performance in several different sports as well, particularly endurance activities like running and cycling.

You will also be able to turn back the clock, which is even another advantage. You won’t stop getting older, but if you exercise frequently and keep your VO2 max at a high level, you’ll be able to stave off many of the negative impacts of becoming older. This is what the Department of Sport Science in the Medical Section at the University of Innsbruck in Austria found in their most recent study, which was published not too long ago.

According to the findings of this study, VO2 max is a powerful and independent predictor of death from all causes and mortality from specific diseases. Therefore, although it has not been demonstrated that fitness training can increase a genetically determined lifespan, it may add years to your life. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that doing so will infuse the time that you have spent here with additional vitality.

The charts that are shown below are the best examples of this. The first demonstrates how the VO2 max values of athletes who have been training for their entire lives decrease with increasing age. The line on top represents male individuals. The one in the middle represents female subjects. The line on the bottom represents the sedentary subjects who served as the control group (the average Joe).

Where would you put yourself on this scale? Hopefully, closer to folks who are trained than those who are inactive!

The second chart is the one that has the utmost significance. This demonstrates the individuals’ level of physical fitness up until the time of their death. The first line represents persons whose VO2 max has been trained, and the second line represents people who are inactive. The dashed line denotes the transition point between an independent life and needing assistance from others.

As can be seen, the study’s findings indicate that having a high VO2 max result in an additional number of years spent independent of medical assistance. It is possible to add roughly 20 years of healthy life to the life of a person who lives to be in their mid-90s. You don’t have to give up your independence when you’re in your mid-70s; you can maintain it far into your 90s.

All of this makes for fascinating reading and highlights how important it is to maintain a healthy level of physical fitness as one gets older, particularly throughout the middle years of life. The researchers concluded after conducting their investigation: “At this time, it is not possible to extend the genetically fixed lifespan with regular exercise training. However, the chance to reach the later end of natural lifespan increases with higher physical fitness in midlife, where targeted preventative efforts may be launched.” CRF, also known as maximum oxygen consumption, is the single most reliable indicator of an individual’s future life expectancy, regardless of whether or not they suffer from the cardiorespiratory disease.

What can I do to increase my VO2 max

Don’t give up hope if your score isn’t as high as you’d hoped it would be if you worked really hard on it. You have options available to you that will help you get better at it. Improving your VO2 max is not a simple task, but it is attainable with consistent training and dogged determination.

It should be no surprise that the greatest approaches to enhancing your score are exercising regularly and losing weight healthily. According to Fitbit, increasing the amount of exercise you do over a period of two to three months can potentially help you boost your score by up to twenty percent.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can be used to accomplish this goal. When it comes to enhancing your fitness, interval training is by far the most effective method. It entails performing a succession of very high-intensity exercise routines, with rest or relief periods inserted in between. Or, to put it in even simpler terms, you run, bike, or row quickly for a while, and then you calm down for a while. This is another method for getting in shape quickly that is extremely effective in reducing fat.

In addition to this, losing weight in a healthy manner (mainly by reducing the proportion of body fat you have) might help improve your cardio fitness score. On the other hand, losing weight in an unhealthy manner (which leads to a reduction in muscle mass) can negatively influence your score.

Firstbeat has produced an excellent short video in which they explain VO2 max.

Monitoring your maximum VO2 using wearables

If you want to keep track of your VO2 max, you have a wide variety of options available to you in the form of sports and runners’ watches. In general, your VO2 max measurements will become more accurate the longer you use your wearable device. This holds true even if you don’t exercise. The following are some of the best GPS watches for running and other types of exercise. Considering that a built-in GPS is often required to obtain a measurement, purchasing a device that already includes one is more convenient.

However, you may purchase watches and fitness trackers that do not have a GPS receiver built in but instead have the ability to connect to your smartphone and gain a signal from there. During the run, you will, as a result, need to make sure you have access to your smartphone at all times.

The VO2 max measure was just added to the Apple Watch, but you can get the same information from virtually any Garmin sports watch. The same is true for other well-known brands like Suunto and Polar and Huawei, Withings, and Samsung. This link will take you to a page where you can view our ranking of the top wearables for health and fitness.

However, this is not the end of the list. When looking for anything that can track your VO2 max, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on it. Other wearables, such as the Fitbit, make use of their very own metrics that are strictly secret. This includes some of their trackers that monitor your fitness throughout the clock. Except for full-fledged sports watches, the following table provides an overview of some of the most common devices that can calculate VO2 max values.

Fitbit Charge 2 and above devices only

The Fitbit Charge is more accurately described as a smartwatch than a traditional fitness tracker. For the typical person who only goes for a run or a bike ride here and there, we would recommend this piece of equipment.

Trackers of the fourth and fifth generations both have built-in GPS capabilities. This enables you to monitor your outdoor exercise with full numbers and a map, even if you don’t have your smartphone with you. Only Connected GPS is available on devices of earlier versions. This indicates that they will need to access your smartphone to obtain a satellite signal.

The device also provides continuous monitoring of activity and sleep, tracking for multiple sports, and standard smartphone notifications. In addition, there are a few functions that make use of the readings from your heart rate. The Cardio, Fitness Level app provides you with an overall assessment of your fitness through a personalized Cardio Fitness Score determined by your VO2 max. In addition, it provides a comparison of your performance to others of the same age and gender and provides a score that runs from terrible to exceptional.

Fitbit Inspire range

There is nothing really revolutionary included with the Inspire line. Rather, it repackages the technology that Fitbit already possesses into a form factor that is more contemporary and makes it accessible to a wider audience financially. The activity band can be thought of as falling somewhere in the middle of the Alta HR and the Charge 3.

The device is an excellent choice for individuals who are just beginning to monitor their fitness because it covers the fundamentals without overwhelming you with excessive data. The one sensor that is lacking is an altimeter for counting floors, but for most people, this will not be a deal breaker. This implies that it provides information on the number of steps taken, the distance traveled, the number of active minutes, the amount of sleep, and the number of calories burned. You also get your VO2 max and your Cardio Fitness Level, just like you did with Charge 3.

Fitbit Luxe is an option to consider if you are searching for something that is discreet but has a more upscale appearance. It has an AMOLED display and is more aesthetically beautiful than its predecessor. In addition, the Luxe includes a metal shell composed of stainless steel that has been polished. This can be used with various straps, even some limited-edition ones.

Fitbit Versa & Sense range

The Ionic has most of the sensors included with the Versa. Still, the latter appears far more attractive because of its rounded edges, polished appearance, and more compact form factor. The business has, very rightfully, come to the conclusion that aesthetics are equally as vital as functionality in product design.

This is a water-resistant smartwatch that prioritizes physical activity, and it comes with a variety of useful functions. It comes with everything you need to track your activity around the clock and capture real-time stats on over 20 different kinds of sports. In addition to this, the stunning, high-resolution touchscreen allows you to monitor all of this information in real-time. Indeed, the earlier models do not have a GPS receiver built in, but this flaw has been fixed in the generation 3 models and higher.

The alternative choice would be to go with Fitbit Sense. The gadget is quite similar in appearance to the Versa 3, but it has a great deal more functionality. In point of fact, it is the most feature-packed smartwatch that Fitbit has produced to this point.

Vivosmart 4 from Garmin

The widely used Vivosmart 3 activity tracker is the foundation for the newer and improved Vivosmart 4. The fourth edition of the device comes with a SpO2 sensor, and it will keep track of your body’s energy reserves and all of the standard fitness tracking smarts that come with it.

During the night, the oxygen saturation feature measures your oxygen levels, providing you with the ability to have a better understanding of the quality of your sleep. Monitoring your stress levels, heart rate variability (HRV), the quality of your sleep, and the amount of activity you do can help determine when you should be exerting maximum effort and when you should take a break.

You still get continuous heart rate monitoring thanks to the Garmin Elevate wrist heart rate technology, and the wearable device automatically keeps track of your activity throughout the day. This includes tracking your steps and floors climbed, calories burnt, intensity minutes, and more. Additionally, it provides you with intelligent notifications, allowing you to remain connected even while on the move.

Vivoactive 4 and the Venu line from Garmin

Garmin’s response to the all-purpose sports smartwatch category is the Vivoactive family of watches. The most recent version, the fourth generation, is offered in various size options, one of which is the Venu. This more expensive variant features an AMOLED display.

You have access to the complete set of features, including VO2 max and a comparison to people of the same age and gender as you. In addition to all of the conventional fitness monitoring statistics, it tracks your PulseOx as well as your breathing rate.

The device features a built-in GPS and several sports profiles, including brand new ones for snowboarding, cardio, yoga, elliptical, and stair stepper workouts. In addition, there is storage for your music and NFC for making payments on the fly.

How to get a more accurate reading of your VO2 max and why it’s important to do so

You can try a few things if you are concerned that the amount of effort you are putting in does not correspond with your VO2 max. In fact, something like this happens rather frequently. If you look around online communities like forums and Reddit, you’ll find that individuals complain about the same issue daily. According to the findings of this study, sports watches have generally gotten pretty good at calculating the user’s maximum VO2 output.

The following is a list of items you should be aware of to guarantee that your readings are correct. Read over this and make certain that you have answered all of the questions.

Adjust your watch so that it reads correctly. Your performance data are not the sole factor that determines your VO2 max. Check that the information you supplied for your age, gender, weight, and height is accurate. And do so in an honest manner! Even better, connect your account to a smart scale so you can’t manipulate the results in any way.

Make sure that your maximum heart rate is properly set. We have addressed this topic in a post of its own. In addition to assisting you in accurately determining your heart rate training zones, it is an essential component in determining your VO2 max. For instance, Garmin uses this information to determine the amount of effort you are exerting. An inaccurate value could give the impression that you have been running when, in reality, you have not.

There are exercises you can perform to determine your maximum heart rate. They often consist of hill spring repeats that are very brief and push you to give it your best. By the time it’s over, you might think you’re about to pass out!

The lactate threshold tests are yet another method that can be utilized. This is supported by a few devices, including watches made by Garmin. A helpful article on determining your maximum heart rate when jogging may be found on the Polar website.

Some sports watches can automatically detect your maximum heart rate and modify themselves accordingly if you wear a strap that has HRV. Garmin sends out notifications to watches whenever the lactate threshold is changed.

Use a chest strap or armband that measures your heart rate externally. Although wrist-based heart rate monitors have improved significantly in recent years, they still do not provide the same level of precision as the devices described here. Calculating your VO2 max requires a precise reading of your heart rate more than anything else. The majority of arm and chest straps can deliver information on heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measurement method for assessing the amount of fatigue your body is experiencing.

It is dependent on the circumstances. When you run uphill, you will receive a higher performance score than when you run downhill, which is the opposite of what will happen. For the most accurate VO2 max estimate, run on level terrain. Other factors, such as surface (running on grass is more difficult than jogging on other surfaces), running into the wind, rain, cold weather, and other factors, can also negatively affect your reading. Having said that, some of the more recent watches do take into account changes in temperature and elevation.

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