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 two things:

  1. The ability of the muscles to use oxygen in breaking down fuels
  2. The ability of the body to transport the oxygen to the muscles.

Applicants to the fire and rescue 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 or cycling on a static bike. However, there is 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. It can be accepted that men score 40-60% higher than women.

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
  • 33.6 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 within the site to help you, so do not be too despondent if you score poorly on your first test.

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