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What's the VO2max? What is the relationship with 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.

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 your Physical Fitness Age (physiological age) and is closely correlated to your healthy life expectancy.

The VO2max is unit per litre 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 your body is better able to absorb oxygen, deliver it to your muscles, and be transformed to create the energy fuel your muscles consume to contract and function. This is important because this energy source is one of the most efficient for your body. The higher its value, the younger your physiological age.

Can I improve my VO2max?

The good news is that when it comes to advancing age and VO2max, it is that a decrease in fitness accentuated by a sedentary lifestyle can be reversed.

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

According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, published in the New York Times, he is even in better shape as he gets older than most in their fifties.

By adopting physical activity or even sports habits, 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 in the average of her age

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

VO2max

Increase in healthy life (non-dependency) [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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