As we age, it becomes increasingly important to pay attention to our overall health and fitness. One key indicator that often goes overlooked is our VO2 max. While the term may sound complicated, it’s essentially a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen during physical activity. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of VO2 max, particularly as we age, and how a kinesiologist can use submaximal VO2 testing to assess and track your progress over time.

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 max, short for maximal oxygen consumption, measures your body’s capacity to use oxygen efficiently during intense physical activity. It’s a vital metric, offering insights into your cardiovascular fitness and overall well-being. It is is expressed in millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).

As we age, various factors can lead to a decline in our VO2 max, including a sedentary lifestyle, muscle loss, and reduced lung capacity. This decline can result in a reduced ability to perform everyday tasks, an increased risk of chronic diseases, and a decreased quality of life.

How can we improve our VO2max? Improving your VO2 max involves consistent aerobic exercise, like running, cycling, or swimming. Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to challenge your cardiovascular system. Gradually increase exercise intensity and duration, focusing on both endurance and speed. Research shows endurance training and HIIT both facilitate large improvements in VO2max, but larger gains result following HIIT.

The Role of a Kinesiologist

A kinesiologist is a professional who specializes in the science of human movement. They are well-equipped to assess your fitness and design exercise programs tailored to your needs. One of the valuable tools they use is sub maximal testing.

Submax VO2 testing is a method for estimating your VO2 max without pushing your body to its absolute limit. This makes it a safer and more accessible option, especially for those who are new to exercise or have health concerns. The test typically involves walking or cycling at a moderate intensity while monitoring your heart rate and oxygen consumption. Interested? Get in contact with one of our kinesiologists and get started today!

Why is VO2 Max Important as We Age?

  • Cardiovascular Health: Maintaining a healthy VO2 max is essential for good heart health. It indicates how efficiently your heart can pump oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and organs, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
  • Energy Levels: A higher VO2 max means your body can produce energy more efficiently. This translates into increased stamina and less fatigue during everyday activities, ultimately enhancing your quality of life.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is often a concern as we age. A higher VO2 max can help you burn more calories during exercise and even at rest, making it easier to manage your weight. Related article on the topic of how aerobic exercise helps burns fat in the body can be found here.
  • Independence: Having a strong VO2 max is closely linked to your ability to perform everyday tasks independently. It can help you stay active, enjoy hobbies, and even reduce the risk of falls in older age.
  • Longevity: Studies have shown a correlation between higher VO2 max and increased life expectancy. So, taking care of your VO2 max is not just about the present but also your future well-being.

Submax VO2 Testing to Track Progress

Submax VO2 testing provides a safe and controlled environment to measure your fitness level and track improvements over time. A big difference in sub maximal testing compared to maximal testing is that it does not require you to wear a mask to measure oxygen and carbon dioxide rates as shown on the picture above. It is often defined as 85% or less of VO2 max. By periodically undergoing these tests, you and your kinesiologist can:

  • Set realistic fitness goals: Knowing your starting point allows you to set achievable goals for improvement.
  • Monitor progress: Regular testing shows how your fitness level changes as you engage in physical activity.
  • Adjust your exercise program: The results can help your kinesiologist tailor your exercise routine to maximize progress.


As we age, staying physically active and maintaining a healthy VO2 max becomes increasingly important. Kinesiologists, with their expertise in movement and sub maximal testing, can help you assess your fitness, set goals, and track your progress. By investing in your cardiovascular health and overall fitness, you’re not only improving your quality of life today but also ensuring a healthier, happier future. So, don’t wait – start working on your VO2 max today!