The Importance of VO2 Max Testing

Your heart is one of your largest assets. Its ability to use oxygen and handle certain exertion levels is paramount in determining your overall health. VO2 allows us to analyze how much oxygen is being used and how your body reacts to increased intensity.

What is a VO2 MAX Test?

VO2 Max Tests are all about maximal functional capacity. The test itself is specifically geared toward your ability to progressively increase your intensity of cardiovascular exercise. It’s an extremely accurate indicator of your cardiovascular fitness--and you don’t need to be an athlete to perform it! Whether you’re sitting at a desk all day or running marathons regularly, we’ll effectively test your aerobic & anaerobic performance.

How is VO2 Max Testing Performed?

There are multiple ways to perform this test correctly. We prefer the cycle ergometer to other methods such as walking or running on an inclined treadmill. The reason being that when performing an intense exercise while standing, there arises a risk of falling or becoming light-headed. Again, you do not need to be an avid exerciser or fitness enthusiast to take this test-- but either way, your safety is put first and foremost.

While cycling, the overall resistance and/or speed will be increased to level up the intensity. You don’t have to worry about going full speed right away, because the level of difficulty will be slowly and incrementally changed as the test progresses. As your breathing increases, so will your ‘oxygen debt’.  

When you finally come to a point of exhaustion then you will enter a cool-down phase. Using these results will allow us to design a customized program that puts you in more control of your health than ever before.

Measuring your anaerobic and aerobic capacities will help us design an effective plan to increase your performance and bring you to a level of optimal health.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT)


This is the exercise intensity level at which lactic acid starts to build up rapidly in the blood. In this stage, your body’s need for energy is so great that it cannot remove lactic acid faster than is being produced. There is commonly a burning sensation that comes along with this, or a feeling of near muscle cramping.

Aerobic Threshold (AeT)


This is where oxygen supply is adequate for the major muscle groups. Below the aerobic threshold indicates a level of effort that can be maintained for many hours. Training below the aerobic threshold is of minimal value for most populations. This is also measured.


Why is VO2 testing important?

Also known as metabolic equivalents, METS identify how much oxygen you consume at rest. One MET is defined as 3.5 ml/kg/hour, which is equivalent to the energy cost of simply sitting. This measurement provides a straightforward means of measuring exercise intensity via oxygen consumption, and may be beneficial especially in athletic performance.


Most up-to-date treadmills have a built in feature that displays the METS of a certain intensity level. They can be a good indicator of intensity for tracking progress through specific workouts, and can at times, be recommended by exercise physiologists.

How to Read VO2 Max Test Results


We use cutting-edge VO2 max software that provides extremely accurate and useful information. Using this data simplifies and streamlines the process of understanding your results.

One of the most outstanding qualities of this test is its ability to track all of the following data in 15-second intervals for the duration of the entire test, allowing our physicians to observe not only the changes that occur but also how quickly physiologic markers shift as the exercise intensity increases. Simply put, this helps us track your body’s every move while in a state of exertion.


Why Do a VO2 Max Test?

Exercise needs to be a regular practice in order to reap the hormonal, mental, and physical benefits that can keep you young and vibrant. Remember, age is not a number, it’s a feeling. Your VO2 test results will shed light on your current fitness level.

Giving you a reference point for future assessments and a reality check into your overall health. It will also provide key target heart rates that you will be able to follow as a guideline when exercising. Staying within these target zones will help you have a framework for success.

Although your first VO2 max test is a crucially important one, it is by no means the only one. To monitor progress over months and years, including reassessments of heart rate, your Cenegenics physician can help you decide when it’s necessary to complete another one.

Maximizing Results at Cenegenics with VO2

At Cenegenics, we believe that wellness needs to be tied into one’s lifestyle in order to be truly effective. Due to the tailored nature of our programs, many patients often find them easier than expected to implement. This is not a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine. Your program will be like no other, just like you. 

Once you know the correct target heart rate zones for your body, you will have a clear and definite path to reach your exercise goals. Staying within your heart rate zone will assure that you not only perform anaerobic exercise, but you will stimulate a powerful source of calorie-burning, called the EPOC, or the afterburn effect.

EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Simply put, your body will use more oxygen after exercising than it did before. This will burn more calories and ultimately more fat. Think of it as a bonus that you get to enjoy for the rest of the day because you put in a good workout. 

Cenegenics was designed to help you increase your productivity, longevity, and overall wellness.

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key resources

This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources:

The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation


The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy


Click to purchase

The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation



The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 2: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy


Click to purchase

Textbook Authors

Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT

Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Educational Foundation.


Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS

Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

[1] “Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health.” American Heart Association, Inc. 2018. Retrieved from URL: http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates