The vo2 max monitor has become a staple of smartwatches, fitness trackers and even some home cardio devices. It’s also a great way to keep tabs on your cardiovascular fitness and health and, while low vo2 max is highly indicative of future heart disease, it’s also something you can raise through consistent aerobic exercise.
Generally, you’ll get an estimate of your vo2 max score through Cardio Fitness in the Apple Watch (or its equivalent on the iPhone) and through Garmin’s estimates (courtesy of Firstbeat Analytics, which it acquired in 2020). To calculate a VO2 Max Estimate, you need to run on flat ground without stopping for at least 10 minutes with a GPS signal and consistent heart rate reading from a built-in optical sensor or an ANT+-connected chest strap. The heart rate data is analyzed and a theoretical VO2 max number is generated based on the formula 3.3 x your running speed + 15 x your inclination.
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To get a more accurate measurement, a professional lab test is required which involves wearing a mask attached to tubes that measure the composition of your inspired and expired respiratory gases as you perform an intense ramp test up to exhaustion on a treadmill. For the average person, it’s just not realistic to get a true VO2 max rating, but knowing your current score helps set a target for improvement.
Fitness trackers and cardio devices can’t analyze the gases in your lungs to tell you exactly what your VO2 Max is, but they can give you a rough estimation by combining resting heart rate with other factors like age and other training habits. For example, some studies suggest that using a chest strap is more accurate than just a wristband to determine your VO2 Max.
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