What’s a Good VO2 Max? Average VO2 Max By Age And Sex

Our Expert Coach Breaks Down The Definition Of VO2 Max, What Qualifies As A Good VO2 Max, How It's Measured, And How To Improve It

VO2 max. Another training metric that we hear in the running world all the time, but perhaps aren’t one hundred percent sure what it means.

Your VO2 max, or Volume Oxygen Maximum, is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use while exercising at high intensity1Health, D. (2014). VO2max | UC Davis Sports Medicine. Ucdavis.edu. https://health.ucdavis.edu/sportsmedicine/resources/vo2description.html. In this way, it can be considered a measure of aerobic fitness, with a higher VO2 max considered as ‘better’.

Average VO2 max varies significantly depending on age and gender, so whether someone’s VO2 Max can be considered good or not depends on who they are. In reality, there is not one value that your VO2 max ‘should’ be.

A ‘good’ VO2 max can be described as one that is clearly above average for an individual’s age range and gender. This would mean that significantly less than 50% of people of the same gender and age range have a higher VO2 max.

A ‘very good’ VO2 max can be described as one that is in the top 75th percentile of a person’s gender and age range, meaning that significantly less than 25% of people of the same gender and age range have a higher VO2 max.

To find out if your VO2 max is good, very good, or extremely good, scroll below to check out our VO2 Max charts and percentile tables to see how you fare.

In this article, we’ll also get into the nitty-gritty of what exactly VO2 max is, how it varies with age and gender, how VO2 max is measured, some downright impressive VO2 max values, and importantly – how to improve your VO2 max.

A woman on a treadmill with a ventilation max working to figure out what's a good vo2 max.

What’s A Good VO2 Max By Age and Sex?

VO2 max values are going to vary as several factors affect the outcome. These factors include age, sex, physical fitness level, training, altitude, body mass, and body composition.

However, we can give you a general idea of a good VO2 max from the data that has been compiled. 

The following information, taken from the Fitness Registry and the Importance of Exercise, breaks down VO2 Max results by age group and sex2Kaminsky, L. A., Arena, R., & Myers, J. (2015). Reference Standards for Cardiorespiratory Fitness Measured With Cardiopulmonary Exercise Testing. Mayo Clinic Proceedings90(11), 1515–1523. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.07.026. By looking at the percentiles, you can see what the below-average, average, and above-average values of VO2 Max are.

To have a ‘good’ VO2 max, your VO2 max should be clearly above average, so look at the 50th percentile and 75th percentile values for your sex and age range and above.

For both men and women, if your VO2 max is higher than the 50th percentile value, then you have a better-than-average VO2 max value.

If you are higher than the 75th percentile value, then you have a much better-than-average VO2 max value.

What’s A Good VO2 Max For Men? Male VO2 Max Percentile Chart By Age:

vo2 max percentiles for men
image by marathon handbook
Age Group5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile
20-2929.032.140.148.055.261.866.3
30-3927.230.235.942.449.256.559.8
40-4924.226.831.937.845.052.155.6
50-5920.922.827.132.639.745.650.7
60-6917.419.823.728.234.540.343.0
70-7916.317.120.424.430.436.639.7

What’s A Good VO2 Max For Women? Female VO2 Max Percentile Chart By Age:

vo2 max percentiles for men
image by marathon handbook
Age Group5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile
20-2921.723.930.537.644.751.356.0
30-3919.020.925.330.236.141.445.8
40-4917.018.822.126.732.438.441.7
50-5916.017.319.923.427.632.035.9
60-6913.414.617.220.023.827.029.4
70-7913.113.615.618.320.823.124.1
A woman running on a track.

What Is A Good VO2 Max For My Weight?

A greater body weight and a higher percentage of body fat are generally correlated with a lower VO2 max.

However, to assess whether your VO2 max is good or not, it is more advisable to compare it to others within your age range, as shown in the charts above.

What Is A Good VO2 Max For Athletes?

Athletes will tend to have a VO2 max value significantly higher than the average person, with elite athletes having a VO2 max value greater than 60 ml/kg/min.

However, there is not one specific benchmark VO2 max value that is considered good when it comes to athletes.

What is VO2 Max?

Your VO2 max, or Volume Oxygen Maximum, is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use while exercising at high intensity 3Health, D. (2014). VO2max | UC Davis Sports Medicine. Ucdavis.edu. https://health.ucdavis.edu/sportsmedicine/resources/vo2description.html.

‌To break it down a bit further and understand what that means, let’s take a step back.

When we breathe, we inhale oxygen that is then pumped into our bloodstream and transported to the muscles. When it reaches the muscles, it is utilized to generate energy (ATP).

ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, according to Britannica, is an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living things4Britannica. (2018). adenosine triphosphate. In Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/adenosine-triphosphate. ATP captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes.

The bottom line is, the greater your VO2 max, the greater the volume of oxygen you can take in and efficiently utilize to generate the maximum amount of energy to do more physical activity: run longer, harder, and faster – it’s a very good indicator of your aerobic capacity.

A man running on a trail.

How is VO2 Max measured?

Now here comes the tricky part. Your VO2 max is measured in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute:

  • VO2 max = maximum milliliters of oxygen consumed in 1 minute/bodyweight in kilograms  

Unfortunately, unlike heart rate, pace, or distance, VO2 max is not something that is easily measured on a fitness watch.

The most accurate method of measuring VO2 max is through VO2 max testing in a lab setting, whereby you run on a treadmill or another piece of exercise equipment while wearing a ventilation mask.

The laboratory test begins by walking at a comfortable pace for a couple of minutes. The intensity and/or incline of the treadmill gradually increases until a maximum cardiovascular effort has been reached or a plateau has been reached.

The test usually takes between 12 and 15 minutes to complete. When complete, your data (heart rate, oxygen consumption, speed) is observed, and your VO2 max is calculated.

A man in a lab taking a vo2 max test.

Once calculated, specific training zones can also be determined, which can then be implemented into a training program.

A lab test is the most accurate way to measure your maximal oxygen uptake – your VO2 max.

Alternatively, you can use steady-state self-tests to get a general idea of your VO2 max, or your lactate threshold. However, there is a greater margin for error in measuring your oxygen intake. 

If you would like to do VO2 max score testing on your own, you can take a look at the following links to a variety of options:

Whichever exercise test you decide to take, it should be repeated periodically to track your progress. 

A close up of a runner's feet on the trail.

Highest VO2 Max Athletes In The World

Let’s drool over the cardiovascular fitness levels of some of the top endurance athletes and their highest VO2 max values recorded:

  • The highest VO2 max ever recorded was Norwegian cyclist Oskar Svendsen with an unbelievable 97.57Instagram. (n.d.). Www.instagram.com. Retrieved December 14, 2023, from https://www.instagram.com/oskarsv_/?hl=en.
  • Former Norwegian cross-country skier Bente Skari’s VO2 max is 76.6.

Whilst these elite athletes might seem in a league of their own, there are countless different workouts you can do to improve your VO2 max.

6 Workouts To Improve Your VO2 Max

Our expert coaches have designed 6 sports-science-based simple workout routines to improve VO2 max.

To improve your VO2 max and your cardiorespiratory fitness, you need to work at a high exercise intensity close to or at your current VO2 max.

However, this is quite an uncomfortable effort level, so the interval at VO2 max will not be very long – think HIIT-style (high-intensity interval training) workouts.

For the best results, you should keep the VO2 max effort interval between three and five minutes. 

Workout #1: VO2 Max Long Interval Training

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog.

2. Run 3 minutes at your VO2 max + 3-minute recovery jog. 

3. Repeat this four times. 

4. Cool down for 10 minutes with a light jog.

As you improve, you can increase the interval at your VO2 max, or decrease your active cardio recovery jog.

A woman in sunglasses running on a road.

Workout #2: VO2 Max Long Interval Training

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog. 

2. Run 4 minutes at your VO2 max + 3-minute recovery jog. 

3. Repeat this four times. 

4. Cool down for 10 minutes with a light jog.

Instead of time, you can also measure your workouts by distance. Just be sure your time at your VO2 max stays between three and five minutes:

Workout #3: VO2 Max Long Interval Training

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog. 

2. Run 1 kilometer at your VO2 max + 3-4 minute recovery jog. 

3. Repeat this four times. 

4. Cool down for 10 minutes with a light jog.

These aerobic fitness workouts are short and sweet but believe me, at this effort, you’ll be ready to call it quits after the last intense exercise repeat.

Now let’s look at a longer option:

A close up of a person's feet in a treadmill.

Workout #4: VO2 Max Tempo Training + Fast Finish

With tempo runs, the higher-intensity intervals will be longer, therefore the desired effort level for the longer section will lower from 100% to  85% of your VO2 max, then bounce back up for the closers.

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog. 

2. Run 10 minutes at a tempo effort or 80-85% of your VO2 max.

3. Run a 5-minute recovery jog. 

4. Run 3 minutes at your VO2 max + 3-minute recovery jog, repeat four times.

5. Cool down for 10 minutes with a light jog.

As your tolerance for running at this hard effort increases, you can gradually increase the time of your tempo run.

Another incredibly successful workout to improve your VO2 max is, you’ve guessed it – hills!

Don’t dread the hills as they are so helpful when improving countless facets of running. As running uphill pushes the limits of your athletic performance, it’s a surefire way to work your VO2 max. 

For these next workouts, try and find a runnable hill, with a 3% – 5% grade. Be sure your hill isn’t too steep or you won’t be able to run.

A woman running on an uphill trail.

Workout #5: VO2 Max Hill Training

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog on a flat surface close by. 

2. Run 3 minutes uphill at or just below your VO2 max. Jog down back to your starting point to recover. Repeat 6-7 times. 

3. Cool down with a 5-10 minute light jog. 

As you improve, increase the uphill interval.

If you need to work out indoors, you can do these workouts on a treadmill just as easily. With the hills, it’s even easier to control the grade of the incline to make sure it is not too steep. 

Workout #6: VO2 Max Hill Training

1. Warm up for 10 minutes with a light jog on a flat surface close by. 

2. Run 5 minutes uphill at or just below your VO2 max. Jog down back to your starting point to recover. Repeat 4 times. 

3. Cool down with a 5-10 minute light jog. 

Again – as you improve, increase the uphill interval.

Now you know everything there to know about VO2 max and how to improve it. 

For other workout session ideas, check out our articles on . . .

A man running on a treadmill with a ventilation mask on.

References

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

6 thoughts on “What’s a Good VO2 Max? Average VO2 Max By Age And Sex”

  1. Hi. I’m a 62 yo male. I ran cross country in high school and then road races occasionally into my late 30s. At that time I developed heart failure which drastically reduced my workouts. Two years ago I received a heart transplant.

    VO2 max is reduced in such patients. You can’t just cut out a heart and sew in another’s without losing something in the translation. A month later I was busy on the treadmill walking and by month 4 achieved a short easy jog. At 6 months I could maintain an extremely slow pace for a mile. At one year my mile time was 14:43. My VO2 max came back at 83% age adjusted.

    I added HIIT (my high intensity isn’t at all fast……but everything is relative I guess! My recent assessment at 2 years out has my at 101% age adjusted. My doctors say that VO2 max for heart transplant patients usually increases to 1 year post and then plateaus. I am thrilled that I improved 18% from yr 1 to year 2!

    Coincidentally (?) my recent mile time trial was just a bit under 12:00 which was 18% faster than a year ago.

    Here’s my question. If I continue to build muscle (probably have remnants of if not active Sarcopenia from going from 180lbs to 134lbs during my worst 12 months. Now at a decent 154lbs with good fitness, if not good speed), continue and increase my workouts including HIIT, do you think my mile time improvements might correlate to higher VO2 max?

    I’m approved by my medical team to run/workout and they were happy with my progress. I’ve done 2 very slow races……a 3 miler and a 3k.

    Any advice would be appreciated! Most online and YouTube videos don’t really apply to my situation. Thanks!

    Thom Williams

    Reply
    • Hi Thomas:

      Your story is very inspiring. I am a 62 years old male as well. I was a school swimmer at high school and university in Taiwan. A decade ago, I still maintained 2000m~3000m swimming and then 43Km of riding on week day for about 2 years until I had a accident of clavicle fracture, and had a year of physical rehabilitation. Since then I worked from home and taking care of my father in a very sedentary lifestyle. In the early 2022, I had my 3rd shots of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (the first 2 were moderna vaccine), and found out that I felt chest tightness after only a few hundred metering of fast pace walking. After few months, I gradually recovered. Unfortunately, I got covid infected, and the situation was even worse. Not just chest tightness after 100 meters of walking or just took off my clothes before bathing, frequent urination at night, and barely sustained 10 push up… I went to hospital for post long covid syndrome diagnosis, and couldn’t find the causes and thought could be the alergy of self immune systems, and prescribed with steroid for 2 months which didn’t help at all. The hospital rehabilation center test my areobic capacity and found out that my VO2Max was only 17.2. I then started to search throguh the web and found out a paper posted on NIH: Understanding Long COVID; Mitochondrial Health and Adaptation—Old Pathways, New Problems which was matched my symptoms. I then searched how to regain mitochondrial Health, and found out lots of information specifically from MD. Peter Attia (Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity) and Dr. Inigo San Millan ( PhD. Assistant Professor, University of Colorado) about Zone 2 exercises.

      Reply
      • After 3 months of 80% Zone2 and 20% of HIIT (all done on a stationary bike) , my VO2MAX back to 32, anther 4 months later my VO2Max is 46 now. Peter Attia mentioned that the aerobic capacity is like a triangle shape of area which is determined by the base (zone2) and the height (VO2Max). You may check out the youtube channel as a reference for your training.

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