Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

What Exercise Intensity Is Best For Improving My VO2 Max?

June 17, 2024

One of our best measures of an individual’s fitness and overall physical health is the VO2 max.  This measurement allows us to determine the body’s ability to bring in and utilize oxygen during activity.  In our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics we often use heart rate or ratings of perceived exertion to prescribe the intensity of a given exercise.  Both of these clinical measurements correlate with VO2 max levels.  With exercise training we see an improvement in both clinical measures and VO2 max.  A recent study looked at the most important intensity needed to optimally change VO2 max levels among exercise participants.

Inglis and colleagues published their findings on the impact on exercise intensity and improvements in VO2 max in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (2024).  Authors included 84 healthy participants who were randomly assigned to one of six continuous cycling conditions.  Performed 3 days a week for 6 weeks.

  1. Control
  2. Moderate cycling
  3. Lower boundary of heavy intensity cycling
  4. Upper boundary of heavy intensity cycling
  5. Sprint intervals of extreme intensity cycling
  6. High intensity, interval training of severe intensity cycling

Authors reported all groups, except moderate cycling, improved their VO 2 max compared to the control group.  Consistent with current research, high intensity interval training produced the highest increase (6.2 mL/kg/min) in V02 max.  High intensity exercise is not for everyone and potential participants are advised to follow up with their physician before beginning any exercise program.

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