How to Calculate VO2 Reserve

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Although you can gauge exercise intensity in many ways -- including the perceived exertion test and monitoring your heart rate -- calculating oxygen consumption is the most precise method available. Your VO2 max is how much oxygen your body uses during maximal effort; your VO2 reserve is a figure that's used as the midpoint in calculations to derive your desired exercise intensity -- in terms of oxygen uptake -- from your VO2 max.

Calculating VO2 Max

  • A trainer can estimate your VO2 max with a submaximal exercise test, commonly done on a treadmill. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that the American College of Sports Medicine's protocols for submaximal exercise tests yield a reasonable estimate of VO2 max. If you need a more precise read on your oxygen uptake, however, you can participate in a maximal exercise test under clinical supervision.

Calculating VO2 Reserve

  • Once you have your VO2 max, subtract your resting VO2 -- found by multiplying 3.5 by your total weight in kilograms -- from the VO2 max to get your VO2 reserve. The higher your VO2 reserve, the more intense the exercise you're capable of doing.

Using VO2 Reserve

  • To finish calculating your ideal exercise intensity, multiply your VO2 reserve by your desired exercise intensity. The exercise intensity depends on several factors, including your current level of fitness; sedentary individuals may start with as low as 40 percent of their VO2 reserve, while fit individuals may aim for 80 percent or higher.

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