Measuring VO2 Max with PNOĒ

man holding plastic heart over actual heart to symbolize cardiovascular health

When it comes to gauging health and fitness, we often focus on numbers like resting heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, weight, etc. But there is another metric that can offer a wealth of insights into one’s health: VO2 max. Also known as maximal oxygen uptake, VO2 max is a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen. This simple measurement can predict mortality rates along with the propensity for certain diseases, like heart disease. Not only that, VO2 max can even be used to predict future medical costs. 

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 max represents the maximum volume of oxygen that an individual can consume and utilize over a certain time period. It is typically expressed in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). The measurement reflects the efficiency of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems in delivering oxygen to the muscles and other areas of the body, where it is utilized for energy production. 

In the past, measuring VO2 max was relegated to the fitness community. It is still widely utilized by professional athletes, who tailor their training based on their numbers. Now, VO2 max has emerged as a critical indicator of the body’s cardiorespiratory health. In fact, the American Heart Association has issued a statement recommending that VO2 max be added to the list of vital signs measured by medical providers. 

How is VO2 Max Measured?

At Balanced Body Health and Wellness, we utilize the PNOĒ breath analysis system to measure your resting VO2 max.You will be fitted with a mask that will analyze your respiratory gasses as you breathe normally. Your VO2 max measurement can then be utilized to create a treatment plan based on one of three metrics:  Longevity, Performance, or Weight Loss. You choose which metric you’d like to focus on, and your provider will suggest ways to best reach your goals. 

What is a Healthy VO2 Max Measurement?

Your optimal VO2 max measurement will depend on a few factors, including your age, gender, fitness level, and whether or not you live at elevation. Ranges can vary quite a bit from person to person. In general, however, the following ranges are applicable:

VO2 Max for Assigned Male Gender

AgeTarget VO2 Max (ml/kg/min)
20-29≥ 45
30-39≥ 44 
40-49≥ 42 
50-59≥ 39 
60-69≥ 35 
70-79≥ 32

VO2 Max for Assigned Female Gender

AgeTarget VO2 Max (ml/kg/min)
20-29≥ 39
30-39≥ 37
40-49≥ 36
50-59≥ 33
60-69≥  30
70-79≥ 28

Again, these are guidelines, and your goal VO2 max will be based on factors unique to you. The main idea is to work continually toward improving your score. Even if you fall into the “good” category, a higher VO2 max is never a bad thing. 

A hummingbird in flight taking nectar from a bright purple flower.
<strong><em>Hummingbirds have some of the highest VO2 max measurements among vertebrates When in motion they can attain as much as 650 mLkgmin <em><strong>

How Does VO2 Max Predict Longevity? 

VO2 max is the best way to measure Cardiorespiratory Fitness (CRF), which is considered a highly accurate predictor of longevity. Low CRF levels are associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality, independent of traditional risk factors such as age, gender, and smoking status. Many diseases are associated with poor oxygen absorption (see below). Monitoring and improving CRF via VO2 max measurements can be instrumental in promoting longevity and mitigating the risk of premature death.

Can VO2 Max Predict Disease? 

In addition to its role in assessing cardiovascular health, VO2 max can also serve as a valuable tool in predicting the presence of certain medical conditions. For instance, low VO2 max levels have been linked to an increased risk of heart failure, coronary artery disease, and metabolic syndrome. By identifying individuals with impaired aerobic capacity, healthcare professionals can intervene early and implement targeted strategies to prevent or manage these conditions.

Moreover, VO2 max testing can aid in risk stratification and treatment planning for patients with existing medical conditions. For example, individuals undergoing cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack or cardiac surgery can benefit from VO2 max assessment to determine their exercise tolerance and guide the intensity of their rehabilitation program. Similarly, cancer patients undergoing treatment may undergo VO2 max testing to assess their cardiopulmonary fitness and tailor exercise interventions to mitigate treatment-related side effects and improve quality of life.

VO2 Max Can Also Predict Medical Expenses

The ability to predict medical illnesses and assess functional capacity through VO2 max testing can lead to more personalized and effective treatment strategies, ultimately reducing healthcare costs associated with hospitalizations, complications, and invasive procedures. By identifying high-risk individuals early and implementing targeted interventions such as exercise training, lifestyle modifications, and pharmacotherapy, healthcare providers can potentially prevent disease progression and improve outcomes.

This is not only in theory. A study published by the Mayo Clinic found a direct correlation with CRF and healthcare costs. Over a period of seven years, it was found that individuals in the least fit group had nearly $15,000 more per year in medical costs  than those in the most fit quartile. 

This means VO2 max measurement could have a profound impact on the medical industry, which has suffered inflation to an unsustainable degree in the last few years. In fact, the cost of certain procedures is so high in the US that millions of Americans travel abroad every year for medical care. This is inherently risky, as standards of care and safety in a foreign country cannot be guaranteed. Simply implementing routine VO2 max screening could significantly mitigate cost and safety concerns for American patients. 

VO2 Max Testing in Omaha

As our understanding of the relationship between VO2 max and health continues to evolve, integrating this metric into routine clinical practice holds immense potential for optimizing patient care and promoting healthy aging. In Omaha, Balanced Body Health and Wellness is proud to offer VO2 max testing as part of our functional medicine program. We are currently offering a special promotion to make this valuable assessment even more accessible to you. Call or go online today to schedule your analysis! 

author avatar
John@digitalbyserenity.com