Running Maximal Oxygen Consumption Test (VO2max)

The VO2max test is the criterion measure of aerobic power in athletes. Described here is the method to measure VO2max using running exercise on a treadmill - there is also a description of the procedures when using cycling and swimming exercise modes. See the general protocol method for measuring VO2max.

ergometer required: a treadmill with the capacity to accurately adjust the speed and angle of incline (gradient).

other equipment required: Oxygen consumption measuring equipment (e.g. oxygen and carbon dioxide analyzers, or expired air may be collected and volume measured via Douglas bags or a Tissot tank, or measured by a pneumotach or turbine ventilometer), a stopwatch, heart rate monitor and RPE scale (optional).

pre-test: Explain the test procedures to the subject. Perform screening of health risks and obtain informed consent. Prepare forms and record basic information such as age, height, body weight, gender, test conditions. Check and calibrate the equipment (see Calibrating Treadmills). Perform an appropriate warm-up. See more details of pre-test procedures.

procedure: Exercise is performed on a treadmill ergometer. The treadmill speeds and gradients are selected to gradually progress in increments from moderate to maximal intensity.

measurement: Oxygen uptake is calculated from measures of ventilation and the oxygen and carbon dioxide in the expired air, and the maximal level is determined at or near test completion. See the general protocol method for measuring VO2max. Heart rate should be measured every minute of the test, and you may also want to measure ratings of perceived exertion (RPE).

scoring: Results are presented as either l/min (liters per minute) or ml/kg/min (mls of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute). The athlete is considered to have reached their VO2max if several of the following occurred: a plateau or 'peaking over' in oxygen uptake, maximal heart rate was reached, attainment of a respiratory exchange ratio of 1.15 or greater, and volitional exhaustion.

VO2max treadmill testVO2max treadmill test

target population: This test is suitable for any sports in which aerobic endurance is a component, though it is most suitable for sports involving running.

advantages: using a treadmill and the running exercise mode suits the biggest range of athletes. Running exercise mode is the most familiar to all people and it uses the whole body.

disadvantages: the greater movement with running can make it harder to collect expired gases, and heart rate can also be affected by the constant movement. Consider a cycling VO2max test.

note: The treadmill VO2max test is a maximal exercise test, which requires a reasonable level of fitness. It is not recommended for recreational athletes or people with health problems, injuries or low fitness levels. See PARQ.

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