Turn Volume of Oxygen Uptake (Vo2) into a Powerful Exercise Programming Tool

What is Volume of Oxygen Uptake Vo2)?

Vo2 is the amount of oxygen used by the body. It is usually expressed as milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute. This gives you a ‘relative’ measure i.e. is individual and indicates the person’s oxygen efficiency which in turn will express their fitness ability.

You can then determine what this person is capable of doing i.e. whether they are ‘fit enough’ to perform any given task and at what intensity (level of effort) that task would require.

We can also determine their energy usage from Vo2. For this we use the ‘absolute’ value expressed in oxygen used in liters per minute. To find this is simple. We determine the relative value as described above and turn that into an absolute value. For calculators that will perform this and much more – click here.


How is Vo2 Measured?

To find out persons Vo2 Max we will ask them to perform a fitness test. There are many tests we can perform and will depend on the persons current activities. For example if the person does a lot of cycling, we will use a cycle test. For those who are currently unfit and inactive, a walking test is usually the best choice. A test that closely resembles a person’s current activity or their planned activity is going to provide a more accurate result. For a list of tests and their calculations – click here.


What do we do with the Vo2 Result?

This is where it gets REALLY EXCITING. You see it is not just a number that can be compared to a fitness chart to determine current level of fitness. This is just the beginning.

To make this important value useful in exercise programming, we will turn their Vo2 Max into METs.

METs are a measurement of intensity where 1 MET is the equivalent to resting energy consumption. Therefore 10 METS would represent 10 times the effort and energy that is used at rest. One MET equals 3.5 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight used each minute (expressed as 3.5 ml.kg.min. Ten METS would therefore be 35 ml.kg.min.

Can you see the crossover between METs and VO2?

If METs is a measurement of intensity someone with a maximum MET level of 10 METs is going to be able to run longer and faster than someone with a 5 MET maximum. They have a bigger engine!!

Now it gets interesting. Determine a persons fitness ability and convert it into METs and we will know this persons ability to perform any task, sport, activity.

There are three tools we can use to accurately assess and more importantly prescribe suitable and highly customised exercise without ever meeting a person simply by knowing their Vo2 Max. These are:

  1. MET Activity Chart – lists sports and activities and their corresponding MET (intensity) level
  2. Metabolic Calculations to determine intensity, speed, energy used for cardiovascular activities such as running, walking, cycling etc
  3. MET Energy conversions to ascertain energy expenditure for any given activity just by knowing the intensity (determined by either a MET chart or distance and speed).


How This Information Is Used

Here are a couple of examples of how this information is used by Metabolic Fitness Professionals:

a. If a person is runs 3 miles in 30 minutes (they are running a 6mph pace) we can determine the MET level for this activity. We can then determine what intensity they were running at by comparing this to their Max MET fitness level. This tells us how suitable this run is to their over all program and exercise plans. Also, from this information we can determine the amount of calories used per minute and therefore total energy consumption for this individual.

b. A person wants a walking program designed for them to suit their current level of fitness. They also want to know if they need to improve their fitness level to better their sport (tennis). We test their Vo2, design a two tiered personalized walking program suitable to their current level of fitness, determine target durations based on target caloric expenditure and advise them that their current fitness level is suitable for doubles play but needs to improve for singles (if sufficient fitness is present in a sport then skill becomes the predominant training goal, whereas if fitness is too low for their given sport, this must be improved first or it will effect their performance regardless of skill).

These are just two simple examples of how a Metabolic Specialist will use Vo2. And the beauty of this is that they NEVER need to meet with the person. This is all done by sitting at their desk with just one value – the persons Vo2 Max ascertained from a simple fitness test.



As you can see, knowing a simple value such as Vo2 we can create a detailed, customised and precise exercise program without ever leaving our desk. This means accurate workouts and exercise advice can be provided all over the world. Knowing a persons Vo2 means you can now determine a persons recreational activities and design a complete exercise plan with energy expenditure, accurate intensities and even heart rate training – all whilst sitting at your desk!

Knowing persons Vo2 and more importantly what to do with it will enable you to design effective personalized programs all over the world!

PS. If you want to learn more about becoming a Metabolic Specialist or simply using Metabolic Calculation Resources – go to PTResources.com/METSCIENCE –click here