Exercise (VO2 max) Testing

What Is Exercise Testing?

Exercise testing is a combination of physiological measurements that are taken while a patient is exercising at varying intensity levels on either a treadmill or bicycle ergometer. We use additional specialized medical sensors and equipment designed to measure a range of vital biological parameters including cardiovascular fitness, VO2 max and VO2 max, metabolic efficiency, anaerobic threshold, rate of perceived exertion, speed/pace on the exercise equipment, and much more. By gathering and analyzing this data, we create a personalized “formula” for health and fitness success based on your unique biology.

For athletes, we also use the measurements to optimize a custom training plan with specific heart-rate zones, exercise prescriptions, and diet information tailored to meet specific professional or competitive goals. For athletes’ recreational fitness, we craft similar programs depending on your specific needs and how they fit with your long-term health goals.

Benefits of Testing

What is VO2 max and how can it help you? VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen you’re able to consume and utilize for working muscle – a measure of aerobic power for athletes. The more oxygen you can use during exercise the better off you’ll be in exercise and in life, because it’s a measure of how well your heart and lungs fuel your muscles with oxygenated blood, which is directly related to your risk for chronic illness and longevity. VO2 max is measured by looking at ventilation (this is one reason why you’ll wear a mouthpiece during the test) and the amount of O2/CO2 that goes in and comes out. The higher your VO2 max, the more fit you are and the higher quality of life you’ll have, along with lower healthcare costs.

VO2 max is highly correlated with endurance sport performance, as well as your ability to reach and sustain certain intensities during cardiovascular exercise.

VO2 max is considered the best indicator of an athlete’s cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. However, everyone should do it once a year as it is a simple test to gauge your heart and lung health and overall fitness.

VO2 max can be increased in two ways: training volume, and training intensity. Testing is the only way to identify the most efficient workout intensities for your unique physiology. By discovering your VO2 max we are able to design an exercise plan, with the exercise physiologist, that will ensure proper training and achieving the ideal heart-rate zone identified during the testing. 

VO2 max measurements can determine an athlete’s potential for success, but other factors involved in optimizing their potential include stress reduction, proper deep sleep, and an anti-inflammatory diet. Through exercise testing, we can also measure your anaerobic threshold and metabolic efficiency to help prevent over-training, lower your risk of injury, burn more carbohydrates, and improve endurance.

Stay tuned for our next newsletter to find out more about these additional concepts and how they might be more important than even VO2 max. Or, schedule an appointment with OC Sports and Wellness to get exercise tested right away! Exercise testing is covered by most PPO health insurance plans.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Test VO2 max?
  • VO2 max is the best measure of cardiorespiratory function or fitness
  • Those who are fit have higher VO2 max values and can exercise at a higher intensity. Also, high fit individuals live, on average, 9 years longer than unfit individuals
  • VO2 max is a measure of how well the muscles utilize oxygen to generate power. However, it is more useful as an indicator of a person’s aerobic potential than as a predictor of success in endurance events
How is VO2 max Determined?
  • There are multiple methods used to determine VO2 max
  • We are able to measure expired oxygen and carbon dioxide while an athlete is wearing a mask and exercising on a treadmill or cycle ergometer: the most precise method in determining VO2 max. Testing is performed in a medical clinic with medical-grade equipment where we can also evaluate heart function
  • The heart rate, oxygen consumption, power output, rate of perceived exertion and respiratory quotient are followed
  • VO2 max is the point where oxygen consumption plateaus despite an increase in exercise intensity
How Does Training Improve VO2 max?
  • Numerous studies have shown that an athlete can increase their VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises their heart rate between 65%-85% of their maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes three to five times per week
  • Training enables an athlete to perform at a higher percentage of the VO2 max for prolonged periods due to improvements in anaerobic threshold and running economy
  • In contrast to endurance training, resistance training alone does not increase VO2 max
What is Lactate Threshold Testing & Why is It Important?
  • First of all, we hit our Lactate Threshold (LT) during exercise when our muscles are unable to manage the build-up of produced lactate. Lactate Threshold is the inflection point where muscles switch to working under anaerobic conditions rather than aerobic conditions. We are unable to maintain anaerobic exercise for very long
  • Essentially, there are two kinds of exercisers in the world: the minority who know what they are doing, and the majority who don’t. The biggest training breakthrough in the last 20 years is training in heart-rate zones. The determination of Lactate Threshold provides a foundation from which training zones and training programs can be established
  • Stated another way, optimum training can be accomplished by using heart rates that are based on an athlete’s Lactate Threshold
  • Over-training remains prevalent among athletes. Training zones below LT promote recovery and endurance adaptations, training at LT will improve LT, and training above LT will develop VO2 max and anaerobic capacity
  • Ultimately, LT training is designed to enhance the muscles’ ability to deal effectively with lactate