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How fit are you?

VO2 max is the maximal volume of oxygen that the body can consume during intensive exercise while breathing at sea level.

Print Edition: June 1, 2008

If you’ve ever hung around with elite runners, you may have heard them talk (or brag) about their VO2 max rates. Of course, the higher that rate the greater the bragging rights. But what exactly is VO2 max? In pure layman terms, it is a measure of your capacity to generate energy required for endurance activities. In more scientific terms, VO2 max is the maximal volume of oxygen that the body can consume during intensive exercise while breathing at sea level. Since oxygen consumption is directly related to energy burning, measuring oxygen consumption is a way of measuring a person’s capacity to do aerobic work. And, in a broad sense, of how fit a person is.

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Take a quick test to find out how fit you are by measuring your VO2: 1. First, run as far as you can in 12 minutes. 2. Enter the distance in metres in the following formula: (Distance run in 12 minutes - 504.9)/44.73. The resulting ratio is your VO2 max measured in ml/kg/min.

Now, how do you know how fit you are? Simple. Check the charts below to see where you feature.

If you’re in the less than “Good” category for your age, don’t despair. While resting VO2 levels are often genetically determined, it is possible to increase your VO2 max by intensive practice. Goal-setting and constant timing improvements can lead to higher VO2 level, implying that you can train your body to consume more oxygen during exercise by pushing it to perform better.

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Now for a quick tip. I got a couple of e-mails from readers asking whether it is better to run or do other cardiovascular exercises before weight training sessions or after them. Now this is tricky. If you do intensive cardio before you lift, you’re likely to be able to lift a lot less because you’ll be tired. And if you try to run or do cardio after you lift, you may be too tired to do that well. So, what’s the best solution? Two answers. You can either break your cardio session: a 15-minute run, followed by weight training and then another 15-minute run. Or better still, segregate the two types of exercise: run (or do other cardio stuff) on three days of the week and train with weights on another three days (you could think of alternating the two). Happy workouts!

Muscles Mani

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Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations.
Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.

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