How to Calculate VO2 Max From Running

Woman running
Perform a VO2 max test on a track to measure your distance easily. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

VO2 max represents your maximal oxygen consumption and varies from athlete to athlete depending on your cardiovascular fitness. It's often expressed in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute and is the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness. Think of VO2 max as a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen.

Step 1

Eat a moderate meal with a high amount of carbohydrates about two hours before you begin the test. You'll need a vast amount of energy to run your fastest. Some ideas include a banana and peanut butter sandwich or a baked potato without butter. Wear comfortable running gear and go to a location with flat ground where nothing can slow you down for a full mile. Avoid traffic lights and obstacles as much as possible.

Step 2

Start your timer as soon as you begin running. Run as quickly as you can for 1 mile. You will need to know your time down to the second.

Step 3

Stop the timer after running exactly 1 mile and write down your time on a piece of paper. Change the number of seconds to hundredths of minutes. For example, if you finish in 10 minutes, 20 seconds, your time is 10.33 minutes.

Step 4

Calculate your Body Mass Index by using this formula: weight in pounds divided by height in inches squared, times 703. Record your number on paper. For example, a man who weighs 150 pounds and is 6 feet tall has a BMI of 20.3.

Step 5

Calculate your VO2 max by using this formula: Multiply 0.21 by the product of your age in years and either 1, if you're a man, or zero if you're a woman. This is your initial result. Multiply 0.84 by your BMI and subtract the number from your first result to gain a revised total. Multiply -8.41 by your mile time in minutes and subtract the result from the revised total. Multiply 0.34 by your mile time squared and add the number to your latest revised total. Add 108.94 to receive a final result. Hypothetically, if a 24-year-old male had a BMI of 24 and ran a mile in 7 minutes and 20 seconds his VO2 max would be 50.45, calculated as follows:

0.21(24 x 1) - 0.84(24) - 8.41(7.33) + 0.34(7.33 x 7.33) + 108.94 = 5.04 - 20.16 - 61.65 + 18.28 + 108.94 = 50.45

Things You'll Need

  • Comfortable running clothes

  • Track or measurable flat running surface

  • Timer or stopwatch

  • Paper and writing utensil

  • Calculator

Tip

If you run as fast as you can you'll get a more accurate VO2 max score. Push yourself during training runs to increase your VO2 max. With exercise your VO2 max can increase by 10 to 30 percent. This test is an estimate of your VO2 max. The only complete accurate way to measure your VO2 max is in a clinical setting on a graded treadmill.

Warning

Do not do a VO2 max running test if you're pregnant or have any signs of a heart condition. Performing a VO2 max running test requires maximum effort and can be dangerous for some people. Make sure you have clearance from your doctor to perform such a vigorous task. If you're a beginner athlete there are less demanding activities that you can do to measure VO2 max, such as a walking or swimming test.

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