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What is the VO2max? How does it relate to my healthy life expectancy?

The VO2max is a scientific and accurate indicator of your fitness. It is a synthetic value that encompasses your circulatory, respiratory and musculoskeletal systems and decreases with age.

The VO2max is a widely accepted scientific indicator of autonomous ageing, a powerful aggregate indicator or your cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular condition. It allows a relevant and simpler tracking of fitness and progress than the total steps per day, heart rate, or hours of sleep! It decreases with age.

It is a well-known indicator of athletes but much less of the general public, even if it perfectly describes fitness.

This is an excellent measure of our Physical Fitness Age (physiological age) and is closely correlated to our healthy life expectancy.

The VO2max has for unit the liter of oxygen per minute (L/min), however, in order to take into account the different sizes, its value is related to weight. It is then expressed in ml/min/kg.

A high VO2max means that our body is better able to absorb oxygen, deliver it to our muscles, and be transformed to create the energy source thar our muscles consume to contract and function. This is important because this energy source is one of the most efficient for our body. The higher its value, the younger our physiological age.

How can I improve my VO2max?

The good news about advancing age and VO2max is that a decline in fitness, accentuated by a sedentary lifestyle, can be reversed.

Many of us have heard of the late Robert Marchand, French amateur cyclist, world record holder at 105 years old, coached by Pr Véronique Billat – Scientific Advisor of Age Impulse.

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, reported in the New York Times, he was even in better shape as he got older, than most people in their fifties.

By adopting habits of physical activity and even sports, you can improve your fitness and be younger.

Average VO2max by age and gender

The following table shows that you are able to rank your level of fitness in relation to men or women of the same age.

The classification is based on a 62-article literature study in which the value of VO2max was measured directly on healthy adults in the United States, Canada, and 7 European countries. Reference: Shvartz E, Reibold RC: Aerobic fitness norms for males and females aged 6 to 75 years: a review. Aviat Space About Med; 61 :3-11, 1990.

VO2max

For example, we can see that:

  • A 33-year-old man with a VO2max of 53 ml.kg-1.min-1 has a very good level of fitness
  • A 50-year-old woman with a VO2max equal to 27 53 ml.kg-1.min-1 is within the average of her age

In practical terms, for persons in poor physical condition, a 10% increase in VO2max can reduce their risk of death by 15% and give them an additional 10 years of good quality life.

VO2max

Anincrease in healthy life (non-dependence) [1]


[1] Strasser B, Burtscher M. Survival of the fittest: VO2max, a key predictor of longevity? Frontiers in bioscience 2018; 23:1505–16.

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