Calculate Your Aerobic Capacity (VO2max) Score

Please see the table below to calculate your (aerobic capacity (VO2max) score. Keep in mind the scores are age and gender dependent.

Unless you are doing this with an exercise physiologist or other medical professional, please see the instructions for this type of test in Chapter Three of Ten Years Younger, page 54. There is some risk to testing maximum exercise capacity, hence if you have any medical issues, don’t try this without your physician’s permission.

The gold standard for aerobic fitness testing is measuring VO2max.  This computes the volume of oxygen you burn during peak exercise–the best measure of your total body fitness level.  Because it accurately predicts how old you are on a cellular level, VO2max is the best test for the Accelerated Aging Syndrome.

Every single cell in your body has a tiny power plant that burns oxygen to produce energy, even when you’re resting. These power plants are called your mitochondria (see Chapter 2 in Ten Years Younger). The better the food you eat, and the more often you exercise and increase your heart rate, the larger your muscle mass will grow, the more of these little power plants you’ll accumulate, and the better they’ll function. Healthy mitochondria can burn more oxygen than those that are sickly. I think VO2max is a terrific measure because it tells you about the total capacity of your mitochondria–your total energy burning capacity.  And with exercise and a healthy diet, you can increase your results significantly.

Usually VO2max is measured at the doctor’s office.  If you were being assessed at my clinic, The Masley Optimal Health Center, I’d have you run on a treadmill or pedal a bike as fast as you comfortably can while wearing a mask that measures the volume of oxygen your mitochondria burn.  Your VO2max would be reported as the volume of oxygen burned per minute per kilogram of body weight.

Like other fitness markers, VO2max usually decreases by 1 percent a year. But whether you’re 30 or 70, almost everyone can improve their VO2max.  It’s never too late. In fact, during my Ten Years Younger, Trimmer, Fitter Study, participants who exercised at least five days a week and added 30 grams of fiber daily to their diets increased their VO2max by 20 percent!  If after 10 weeks of healthier living, you were able to increase your VO2max by only 10 percent, you still would have become ten years fitter! Happily, enhancing your VO2max is easy with strength and aerobic training coupled with my Cutting Edge Diet.

The great news is that you don’t actually have to test your VO2max level at your doctor’s office. If you want to forego the time and expense (between $300 and $500 and not covered by insurance) of a real VO2max test, simply multiply your MET level by 3.5. That predicts your VO2max quite well.  To calculate your maximum MET level, and your heart rate recovery from exercise, see the section at the bottom of this section.

For instance, if we were to multiply a MET level of 10.9 by 3.5, we could predict that her VO2max would be 38.2. At 45 years of age, that puts her in the 50th percentile for aerobic fitness for her age.

VO2 max Testing for Men
Aerobic Capacity (ml/kg/min)
Percentile 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
90 51.4 50.4 48.2 45.3 42.5
80 48.2 46.8 44.1 41.0 38.1
70 46.8 44.6 41.8 38.5 35.3
60 44.2 42.4 41.8 38.5 35.3
50 42.5 41.0 38.1 35.2 31.8
40 41.0 38.9 36.7 33.8 30.2
30 39.5 37.4 35.1 32.3 28.7
20 37.1 35.4 33.0 30.2 26.5
10 34.5 32.5 30.9 28.0 23.1


VO2 max Testing for Women
Aerobic Capacity (ml/kg/min)
Percentile 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+
90 44.2 41.0 39.5 36.2 35.0
80 41.0 38.6 36.3 32.3 31.2
70 38.1 36.7 33.8 30.9 29.4
60 36.7 24.6 32.3 29.4 27.2
50 35.2 33.8 30.9 28.2 25.8
40 33.8 32.3 29.5 26.9 24.5
30 32.3 30.5 28.3 25.5 23.8
20 30.6 28.7 26.5 24.3 22.8
10 28.4 26.5 25.1 22.3 20.8


An explanation about terms:  If you’re in the 50th percentile that means you’re performance is average for your age group and gender. The 10th percentile means you’re in the worst 10 percent for your age, and 90th percentile means you’re in the top 90 percent for your age. If you were to move from one age-group column to the previous one (even if you remained in the 30th percentile), you would be ten years younger. However, my ambitious long-term goal is to challenge you to reach the top 70th percentile for the younger age group.  Of course, I don’t expect you to achieve this in ten weeks! That wouldn’t be fair. But in the long haul it will serve you well.

To calculate your maximum MET level and 1 minute heart rate recovery:

But first a caveat.  As a physician who daily teaches participants in my program to capitalize on their exercise investment, I need to clarify the risks and benefits of maximal exercise testing. If you push yourself to your highest effort during exercise, there’s a very small risk (1 in 10,000) that you could have a cardiovascular accident (a fainting spell, heart attack, or even more rarely, sudden death). The worse your health and fitness level, the higher your risk becomes. That tiny risk of having a significant cardiovascular event exists in my clinic too. But in truth, if you were to encounter a problem during testing, what better place to have it than at your doctor’s office with medical equipment and trained staff immediately available? At the same time, inactivity over the long haul puts you at even greater risk of a cardiovascular accident than maximal exercise testing.

At best, I recommend that you perform this kind of exercise testing with your physician. A second option would be working out at the gym with an exercise physiologist or trainer. Third, would be a gym workout with staff in the vicinity; even if not supervising you directly, someone would be present in the extremely rare case that you felt dizzy. Obviously, if you’re young, healthy, and fit you might choose to do this test without anyone observing. A good rule of thumb:  the more significant medical problems you have, the more important that you test with a physician or with an exercise physiologist in a gym.

Of course, the mentally tough and hard-headed might choose to push it quite a bit, strain themselves, and get to the point of dizziness and stumbling.  Clearly, that’s going too far! Total exhaustion would be running until you can’t anymore. . . say a lion is chasing you, and you stop, turn and say, “Okay. Eat me!” That’s verging on collapse, and I don’t recommend it!

Having clarified the risks, there’s a huge benefit to pressing on with exercise and defining your real maximal heart rate.  This score will help you make the best use of your exercise program and will provide the most benefit within a reasonable time. In Chapter 5, I’ll explain how to use this heart rate number to enhance your aerobic exercise program.  But here’s how you get to it in the first place.

  1. Find your maximum, comfortable exertion level and calculate your MET level. This means pushing yourself on a stationary bicycle or treadmill machine that shows you a MET level on the screen, to the point where you are breathing hard, puffing, and just barely able to talk in short sentences but clearly unable to sing. Your stride is still steady (you aren’t stumbling), your color is good, and you could keep on going a few more seconds.Check your machine to calculate the MET level you have achieved at maxiumum exersion.
  2. Now check your pulse. Gently place your fingers over the radial artery on your inner wrist or use a pulse-measuring tool such as a chest band and a wristwatch that shows seconds.  Count the number of heartbeats with your watch for 15 seconds, say 42.  Multiplying by four gives you your pulse rate for a minute. (42 beats x 4 = 168 beats per minute.)  This is your maximal achieved heart rate.   (Treadmills and exercycles with hand measuring devices may not be accurate enough as they usually record only a three-beat sequence and yield varying heart rates.)
  3. To calculate your 1 minute heart rate recovery. Slow down to a flat walk at 1 mile per hour, after 1 minute recalculate your heart rate. An athletic heart rate recovery would be >40 beats per minute, normal is >25, concerning is <20 beats per minute, and alarming would be <12 beats per minute.

Bear in mind that this equation won’t work if you’re taking blood pressure medications such as beta blockers that limit your heart rate. You might also get an inaccurately high pulse if you overuse stimulants such as caffeine and decongestion medications.




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