Different ways to measure VO2max

After recently observed a VO2max test in class, I began wondering more about this type of measurement of maximal oxygen uptake. Is there a better, less exhausting way to measure metabolic limits and aerobic power? How do you measure VO2max in patients with paralysis? Is VO2max even useful to measure in impaired patients? I started looking into different ways to measure VO2max and found an interesting paper from 1980 (Epstein et al, A comparison of various methods for the determination of VO2max, Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol). Although this paper is relatively old, it is still being cited today and remains relevant. In this study, four different methods were used to determine VO2max including direct measurements using uphill treadmill running, cycling on an ergometer, and a step test, and indirect measurements using the Astrand-Rhyming procedure of predicting VO2max. The subjects were non-professional sportsmen, so the conclusions of this study can be applied to non-professional athletes, unlike a lot of the previous articles we have discussed in class that only applied to college-level or professional athletes.

Looking at Table 2, we can see that VO2max was highest when measured using the uphill treadmill test, in agreement with previous results. Interestingly, this method did not have a significantly higher heart rate, indicating that it may not be the most strenuous method. Additionally, the O2 pulse, a measure of cardiac performance, was consistent across the three direct measurement methods. These discrepancies have been attributed to differences in subject motivation or involvement of a varying volume of muscles necessary to perform each method. Even so, the methods in this study did not generate significantly different measures of VO2max, so we can conclude that any of the four methods tested here will adequately determine VO2max.