The VO2 Max Test

The VO2 Max Test

When you run or do any aerobic exercise, you use oxygen to help generate power. Your VO2 Max is the maximum ability of your body to take oxygen from the air and pump it via your heart to your muscles. It is measured in millilitres of oxygen per kilogramme of bodyweight per minute of exercise, and it is considered by many trainers to be the best indicator of a person’s cardiovascular fitness.

Generally the fitter you are, then the higher your VO2 max is which means that you are able to work and exercise at a higher intensity than someone who is not as well conditioned. The amount of energy that can be released aerobically from your body depends on 2 things, the ability of the muscles to use oxygen in breaking down fuel and the ability of the body to transport the oxygen to the muscles.

Applicants to the fire service will invariably be tested on their VO2 max so it is a good idea to test yourself to check you are at the required standard.

To get an accurate reading of your VO2 Max you need to be hooked up to a machine that can monitor your oxygen intake while running on a treadmill. However, seeing as most people don’t have one of those machines lying about the house or station, here’s a simple method of working out your approximate VO2 Max using the results from your 12 minute run test.

Take your distance achieved in your 12 Minute Run Test in metres and subtract 504.9. Then divide the result by 44.73. This is your approximate VO2 Max. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, this figure will go up, although it is limited by your genetic inheritance. In other words, we blame the parents.

Compare your result with the tables below.

VO2 Max ratings (age 20-29)
  • 49.5 and over – Excellent
  • 45 to 49.4 – Good
  • 41 to 44.9 – Above Average
  • 35.5 to 40.9 – Average
  • 35.4 and over – Poor
V02 Max ratings (age 30-39)
  • 48 and over – Excellent
  • 43.8 to 47.9 – Good
  • 39 to 43.7 – Above Average
  • 3.6 to 38.9 – Average
  • 33.5 and lower – Poor

Like most things, your VO2 max score can be improved upon, so take regular exercise and monitor your score. A good way to improve your score is to train at a higher intensity 3 or 4 times a week and aim to keep your heart rate elevated to above 75-80% of your maximum heart rate as this will accustom your body to working at a higher intensity and training the body to use and transport oxygen more efficiently.

There is plenty of advice on this site to help you so do not be too despondent if you score poorly on your first test.


Lance Armstrong, 7 times winner of the Tour De France, has a VO2 Max rating of 83.8