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  • Alexander Olaussen

Understanding VO2 Max: Measurement, Estimation, and Its Connection to Longevity

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Written by: Alex Olaussen. Date: 15th December 2023. Status: In progress


  • In the pursuit of a longer, healthier life, understanding key health metrics is crucial.

  • One such metric that has gained attention in recent years is VO2 max.


  • This post will delve into what VO2 max is, how to measure and estimate it, the reliability of smartwatches in estimating VO2 max, and the evidence supporting its connection to longevity.

What Is VO2 Max?

VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense physical activity. It is often considered a gold standard for assessing cardiovascular fitness and endurance. A higher VO2 max typically indicates better cardiovascular health and greater endurance capacity.

How to Measure VO2 Max:

1. Laboratory Testing: The most accurate way to measure VO2 max is through a graded exercise test performed in a clinical setting. During this test, you'll exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike while your oxygen consumption is monitored.

2. Estimation via Smartwatches: Several smartwatches now claim to estimate VO2 max using built-in sensors. These estimates are typically based on heart rate data collected during exercise. While convenient, they may not be as accurate as lab tests.

Reliability of Smartwatches in Estimating VO2 Max:


- Convenient and non-invasive.

- Can provide insights into your fitness trends over time.

- May be suitable for tracking general fitness levels.


- Less accurate than lab-based measurements.

- Accuracy can vary among different smartwatch brands and models.

- May not account for individual differences in physiology.

Can VO2 Max be predicted at home?

How to do it?

Run for 12min. Measure the Kms.

Then do maths:

VO2 max = (21.01 x km ran) - 11.04

Thoughts on home measurements

  • These predictions will invariably be validated in different populations that do not align to your specific background

  • It is therefore a good idea to measure VO2 max once properly, then do one of these home measurements and smart watch checks.

  • You will then know what works for you.

  • In fact, follow the Olaussen Predicted VO2 max test

The Olaussen Predicted VO2 max test

  • Check your VO2 max formally

  • Wait a few days

  • Then do a light warm up according to personal preference

  • Then, run as far and fast as you can for 12minutes

  • Then calculate your coefficient (i.e. difference between actual and predicted according to Cooper's protocol)

  • Your VO2 max = ((21 x km ran) - 11) * your coefficient

  • Incorporate your coeff into the formula and rearrange

  • PVO2 max = (21 x Coeff x kms ran) - 11 x Coeff.

The Link Between VO2 Max and Longevity:

The connection between VO2 max and longevity has been the subject of extensive research. Here's the evidence supporting this link:

1. Cardiovascular Health: Higher VO2 max is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular diseases are major contributors to premature mortality.

2. Aging Process: Studies suggest that regular physical activity, which can improve VO2 max, can slow down the aging process at a cellular level, potentially extending lifespan.

3. Chronic Disease Prevention: Individuals with higher VO2 max tend to have a reduced risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, which are linked to premature death.

4. Quality of Life: Improved cardiovascular fitness and endurance contribute to a higher quality of life in old age, promoting both longevity and happiness.

Causation or correlation?

It's important to note that while there is a strong association between VO2 max and longevity, causation is not fully established. Maintaining a high VO2 max should be viewed as one component of a broader strategy for healthy aging.


VO2 max is a valuable metric for assessing cardiovascular fitness and potential longevity. While smartwatches offer a convenient way to estimate it, the gold standard remains laboratory-based testing. Improving your VO2 max through regular exercise is an evidence-based approach to promoting a longer, healthier, and happier life.

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