What Is Aerobic Capacity and How Can You Improve It?


Ever marvel how suit you actually are? There are a number of methods to get an concept of your present fitness degree — like monitoring your reps, monitoring your coronary heart fee, or measuring your body fats share.

But one metric you could be much less conversant in is cardio capability.

Whether you’re new to exercising or contemplate your self a exercise professional, discovering out your cardio capability could be an effective way to gauge how match you’re and observe your progress over time.

Here’s what it’s essential to find out about cardio capability — and how you can enhance yours.

What Is Aerobic Capacity?

Aerobic capability is the purpose at which your body is utilizing as a lot oxygen as it will probably, as effectively as it will probably.

“Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen the body can utilize during intense exercise,” explains Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., senior director of fitness and nutrition content material at Beachbody. “Knowing your aerobic capacity can give you an objective idea of your current cardiorespiratory fitness level.”

Let’s return to the fundamentals: When you exercise, you breathe in oxygen, which is transferred by way of your lungs to your blood vessels.

The now-oxygenated blood travels to the center to be dispersed to your tissues and muscle groups, the place the oxygen will get utilized.

The oxygen works with glucose to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP) with the intention to gasoline your muscle groups.

The extra you exercise, the extra environment friendly your muscle groups get at utilizing oxygen — and the upper your cardio capability is.

Is Aerobic Capacity the Same as VO2 Max?

Yes. The phrases cardio capability and VO2 max are sometimes used interchangeably — and they’re primarily the identical, Thieme says.

VO2 max is the the utmost quantity of oxygen your body can use in a given period of time — in different phrases, it’s a measurement of your cardio capability.

VO2 max is often measured when it comes to milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).

You may additionally see the phrases cardio energy or maximal oxygen uptake when referring to cardio capability, however these all boil all the way down to the identical idea: the speed at which you devour and use oxygen.

How to Measure Aerobic Capacity

Measuring your personal VO2 max might help you get a baseline to your present fitness degree and observe enhancements over time.

Choose from the strategies under to calculate yours.

1. Fitness wearable

One straightforward possibility could also be proper in your wrist. Many fitness wearables — like Garmin, Jabra, and Fitbit — present an estimated VO2 max calculation based mostly in your coronary heart fee, age, intercourse, and weight.

But the important thing phrase with these is estimate, Thieme says: “Wearables can give you a rough estimate of your aerobic capacity, but for a truly accurate assessment, you need to visit a sports performance lab for an indirect calorimetry test.”

2. Indirect calorimetry testing

For probably the most exact measurement of cardio capability, you’ll need to get an oblique calorimetry check carried out.

Even weekend warriors and common Joes will pay to get this check executed at a sports activities lab. (Some hospitals, training facilities, and universities supply it as nicely.)

During the check, you’ll be fitted with a masks that measures your respiration whilst you carry out an more and more onerous exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike.

It’s much less handy (and much less snug) than checking your fitness tracker, however for people really seeking to enhance their cardio capability, this check is the easiest way to get an correct VO2 max measurement.

How Can You Improve Aerobic Capacity?

Once you may have a baseline to your cardio capability, you possibly can concentrate on enhancing it.

“Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to increase aerobic capacity,” Thieme says.

“The key is to exercise at an intensity that’s at or above your lactate threshold (the point where you start to feel your muscles burning), which you’ll reach at about 80 percent of your max heart rate.”

Here are just a few extra workouts that may provide help to enhance your VO2 max.


Short on time? Tabata means that you can enhance your VO2 max whereas blasting by super-short, super-intense exercise segments (like burpees, bounce squats, or mountain climbers) adopted by a quick relaxation interval.

This four-minute type of HIIT follows a sample of 20 seconds of labor, adopted by 10 seconds of relaxation, for a complete of eight sweat-inducing cycles.

Sprint intervals

One examine suggests dash interval training could be an efficient option to enhance cardio capability.

In simply six classes of dash intervals, the educated athletes within the examine improved their general running time, time to exhaustion, and peak energy.

Even higher, you possibly can adapt nearly any sport into an efficient dash interval exercise.

Love to swim? Instead of a slow-and-steady swim, do a 50-meter freestyle as quick as you possibly can, with a restoration break between laps.

If you’d slightly be biking, pedal onerous at your most effort for 30 seconds, then go at a simple tempo for as much as 4 minutes whilst you catch your breath.

(This restoration time is essential for letting your body recuperate so you possibly can proceed to present your max effort for every interval.)


Cross-training is solely mixing up your workouts — for instance, doing a HIIT exercise on Monday adopted by low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio on Tuesday.

According to the American Council on Exercise, a LISS exercise is a lower-stress manner to enhance cardio capability.

Doing a grueling HIIT exercise each single day could put you in danger for overtraining — particularly in the event you’re a fitness newbie.

By including lower-intensity workouts into your week, you possibly can proceed to enhance your cardio capability whereas giving your body an opportunity to get better.

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