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

VO2 Max. Another pesky term that we hear in the running world all the time, but perhaps aren’t one hundred perfect sure what it means. Whether we are clear on the definition from the get-go or not, the questions that surely follow are, what’s a good VO2 Max,  and how I can improve my VO2 Max

As athletes, we are constantly striving to improve and work towards our peak performance. Researching new training methods, ideas, and the latest fad workouts has become second nature to us because getting better is always our top priority.  

Today, we are going to explain exactly what VO2 Max is and get into the nitty-gritty of what’s a good VO2 Max, and what are the average VO2 max times for different sex and age groups.

In this article, we will discuss: 

  • What is VO2 Max?
  • How is VO2 Max measured? 
  • What’s A Good VO2 Max?
  • What’s A Good VO2 Max By Age And Sex?
  • Workouts To Improve Your VO2 Max

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

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

What is VO2 Max?

Before we get into answering the question of what’s a good VO2 Max, we should understand what it actually is.

Your VO2 Max, or Volume Oxygen Maximum, is the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use while exercising at high intensity.

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 things. 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 more oxygen you are able to take in and efficiently utilize to generate the maximum amount of energy to run longer, harder, and faster.

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, it is not something easily measured on every fitness watch such as your heart rate, pace, and distance. It is most accurately measured in a lab setting while running 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 effort has been reached or a plateau has been reached.

This test usually takes between 12 and 15 minutes to complete. When complete, your data, (heart rate, oxygen uptake, 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.   

Taking a lab test is the most accurate way to measure your Vo2 Max. There are self-tests that you can perform to get a general idea of your VO2 Max, however, there is a greater margin for error. 

If you would like to measure your VO2 Max on your own, you can take a look at the following links to a variety of options:

Whichever 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.

What’s A Good VO2 Max?

Before we jump into what’s a good VO2 Max, let’s drool over the fitness levels of some of the tops athletes and their highest VO2 Max values recorded:

  • The highest VO2 Max ever recorded was Norwegian cyclist Oskar Svendsen with an unbelievable 97.5. 
  • Kilian Jornett, one of the best trail runners in the world, has a record VO2 Max of 89.5.
  • Olympic gold medalist marathoner Joan Benoit has a recorded VO2 Max of 78.6.
  • Former Norwegian cross country skier Bente Skari’s VO2 Max is 76.6.

What’s A Good VO2 Max By Age and Sex?

Now that we’ve seen some of the highest VO2 Max values ever recorded, let’s look at some numbers most of us can actually relate to

VO2 Max values are going to vary as several factors affect the outcome. These factors include age, sex, fitness level, training, altitude, 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 sex. By looking at the percentiles, you can see what the below-average, average, and above-average values of VO2 Max are.

A woman running on a bridge.

VO2 Max Percentiles: Men

Age Group5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile
20-
29
29.032.140.148.055.261.866.3
30-3927.230.235.942.449.256.559.8
40-4924.226.831.937.845.052.155.6
50-
59
20.922.827.132.639.745.650.7
60-6917.419.823.728.234.540.343.0
70-
79
16.317.120.424.430.436.639.7

VO2 Max Percentiles: Women

Age Group5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile
20-
29
21.723.930.537.644.751.356.0
30-3919.020.925.330.236.141.445.8
40-4917.018.822.126.732.438.441.7
50-
59
16.017.319.923.427.632.035.9
60-6913.414.617.220.023.827.029.4
70-
79
13.113.615.618.320.823.124.1
A woman running on a track.

Looking at the data, VO2 Max values do vary significantly depending on age, decreasing over time, and sex. 

How do you match up to these numbers? Are you within the 50th percentile or higher? 

No matter what your VO2 Max value is, I’m sure you still wish to improve it. Let’s take a look at some ways to do so. 

Workouts To Improve Your VO2 Max

To improve your VO2 Max, you need to work 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. 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 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 workouts are short and sweet but believe me, at this effort, you’ll be ready to call it quits after the last 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 gets you up to your max quickly, 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.

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. 

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.  

So, now that you know the answer to the question, what’s a good VO2 Max, are you ready to pump up yours? Of course, you are. Let’s get training! 

For other workout session ideas, check out our articles on 

 Interval Training

Track Workouts

A man running on a treadmill with a ventilation mask on.
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 race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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