Do you long to have the aerobic capacity of a competitive long distance runner? Aerobic capacity, or V02 max, is measured by having a person do graded exercise while measuring their oxygen consumption. The point at which oxygen consumption plateaus despite an increase in workload is V02 max. This is a measure of aerobic capacity and aerobic endurance.
A person with a higher V02 max may be able to run, cycle or swim longer or faster than something with a lower V02 max, although factors like efficiency and exercise economy play a role in exercise performance too. A higher V02 max means you can deliver more blood and oxygen to the muscles, allowing them to produce more ATP as energy. Having a high V02 max is an advantage if you participate in sports that require aerobic endurance. How much is it possible to increase your aerobic capacity or V02 max through training, and what’s the best way to do it?
Can You Increase Your V02 max?
Most people can increase their aerobic capacity and V02 max through training, but there are some limitations based on age, sex and genetics. Men have higher V02 max values than women, and V02 max declines with age starting in a person’s twenties. Some people have genetically lower values, and genetic factors also limit the amount of improvement a person can make in their aerobic capacity.
People who are less fit can boost their aerobic capacity by as much as 20% through aerobic training, whereas more fit individuals will get less improvement because they’ve already maximized some of their potential. Surprisingly, a small percentage of people will get no improvement in their aerobic capacity despite aerobic training, but the good news is most people can increase their V02 max to some degree through exercise.
How to Increase Your Aerobic Capacity and V02 max
It’s possible to boost V02 max by increasing either the volume or intensity of your aerobic training. If you’re a runner, you could increase your mileage, but do it gradually to avoid overuse injuries. Even more effective for boosting aerobic capacity is to ramp up the intensity of your workouts.
To maximize gains in aerobic capacity, increase the intensity of your cardio workouts by including some interval training. During the working intervals get your heart rate up to 85 to 95% of your maximum heart rate and allow it to come down during the rest intervals. Workouts of mine like HiiT, AfterBurn, Athletic Training, Intensity, and Cardio Supersets are just some of my videos you may want to try to accomplish this.
It usually takes 2 to 3 months of training to see significant improvements in aerobic capacity. Most people will experience some increase in V02 max, depending upon genetics and their level of fitness when they began the program.
The Bottom Line?
Most people can boost their aerobic capacity and endurance by increasing either the volume or intensity of their aerobic workouts. Interval training where you boost your heart rate up to between 85 and 95% maximum heart rate is one of the most effective ways to do this, but make sure you’ve achieved a certain level of fitness before doing intense interval training.
Exercise Physiology. Fifth edition. McArdle, Katch and Katch. 2001.
Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Third edition. Wilmore and Costill. 2005.