How does Garmin calculate VO2 Max?

In this guide, we will talk about how Garmin calculates VO2 Max, what is VO2 Max and why it can be considered important, how accurate are VO2 Max measurements and some additional things to consider. 

How does Garmin calculate VO2 Max?

If you wonder, how Garmin calculates VO2 Max, here we have an answer. You may have probably heard about VO2 Max as a measurement of aerobic fitness and how it could be estimated depending on some individual factors such as your age and sex. Watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 230, 235 or 630 which use the GPS can measure your pace and heart rate by having a run for at least 10 minutes. 

Before you start measuring VO2 Max, it is recommended to fill out your user profile, specifically your age, gender, height, weight and maximum heart rate. If you don’t know your maximum heart rate or have never measured it before, your Garmin device will determine a preset value based on your user profile. You can estimate or determine this value by actually running several times to get a more accurate maximum heart rate score.

Remember that as you perform more activities using your device, the measurements become more accurate. Moreover, to get an even better result for your heart rate measurement, pair your optical HR watch with Garmin heart rate monitor. Once your accurate Max Heart rate value is established you can start to measure your VO2 Max. 

What is VO2 Max and why is it important?

As indicated by Garmin Support, “VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen (in millilitres) you can consume per minute per kilogram of body weight at your maximum performance. VO2 max is an indication of aerobic fitness and should increase as your level of fitness improves”.

Moreover, we can say that this score is important because with it you can understand and manage your fitness level. In more technical terms, VO2 Max describes the max rate at which you breathe in oxygen into your body, subsequently transporting it to your muscles and using it efficiently. 

Finally, understanding VO2 Max may seem complicated at first but remember that lower VO2 Max scores represent a poor fitness level while higher scores indicate greater fitness capacity and performance. However, there are a few factors related to physical performance such as genetics that can determine how your body uses oxygen more efficiently. With this said, your VO2 Max score is not fixed, is dynamic and it can vary according to your habits and how you train.

How accurate is VO2 Max in Garmin?

As we have mentioned, VO2 Max is very useful as a definitive measurement of aerobic fitness. This metric can tell you the maximum heart rate at which you take oxygen from the air that goes through your lungs and into your bloodstream when working out or doing physical activities. It seems to ve an important measurement that can predict your future overall health.

Moreover, VO2 Max is considered by the American Heart Association as a new ‘vital sign’ that should be assessed by your doctor and should be classified as such. It seems that the best way to assess your oxygen consumption through exercise exhaustion. 

However, there is another way of estimating it that doesn’t involve exercising at all. As indicated by runnersworld.com, “simply use information like your age, resting heart rate, and typical activity levels. Watches like the Polar V800 take this a step further by measuring your heart-rate variability (the subtle variations in the time between successive heartbeats) for a few minutes while you’re lying down”.

Is VO2 Max measured differently through a chest strap than a Garmin device? 

If you would like to do the exercise of using a chest strap and a Garmin device simultaneously, when going for a run you may notice slightly different scores for VO2 Max but why? Most likely, heart rate measurements are to blame. Chest straps are considered to be more accurate when measuring heart rate. Wrist sensors on the other hand seem to produce heart rate values that are consistently lower than those from chest straps.

We may conclude that chest straps will measure and give you better results when measuring your heart rate. However, we may wonder if a Garmin device may give us reliable data but it will depend on the reason why you are using it for. 

How is VO2 calculated on my device?

How VO2 Max is calculated will depend on the model of the device you use and the requirements may vary depending on the activity that is being recorded. The methods we will mention may not apply to your device and to determine the type of activity your device can use to estimate the VO2 Max, refer to your device’s manual.

Running VO2 Max

We need to start by saying that this activity must be recorded using the Run activity profile. However, the trail is not supported due to some variations that may occur in terrain conditions, leading to an inaccurate reading.

As indicated by Garmin Support, there are some considerations when running:

  • The activity must be 10 minutes or longer in length but the vivosport requires up to 15 minutes. 
  • The activity must be recorded outdoors with a GPS signal.
  • Heart rate data from the built-in optical heart rate sensor or from a chest strap.
  • Heart rate must be elevated to at least 70% for 10 minutes continuously. 

Cycling VO2 Max

For VO2 Max to be estimated or calculated, the activity must be at least 20 minutes in length or longer without pauses. Also, your heart rate data from either a heart rate sensor or chest strap will be recorded and heart rate must be elevated to at least 70% for 20 minutes continuously.  Finally. A power meter is required. 

Walking VO2 Max 

Walking VO2 Max is estimated after continuous activity for 10 minutes or longer but for vivosport, it increases to 15 minutes in length. Also, the activity must be recorded outdoors with GPS.

The Heart rate data needs to be recorded from an optical rate sensor or from a chest strap. Finally, the heart rate must be elevated to at least 70% of your Max heart rate for at least 10 minutes continuously. 

How can I improve VO2 Max measurements?

As a general recommendation to improve VO2 Max, establish a regular workout schedule. However, consider that VO2 Max and Cycling VO2 Max values may differ because the muscles used for each activity may have different oxygen requirements. 

As you may know, your body adapts to consume oxygen differently for each exercise and may be more or less optimized for each (support.garmin.com). 

Why is this blog about How does Garmin calculate VO2 Max important?

As we have discussed how Garmin calculates VO2 Max, we can conclude that before you start measuring VO2 Max, it is recommended to fill out your user profile, specifically your age, gender, height, weight and maximum heart rate. If you don’t know your maximum heart rate or have never measured it before, your Garmin device will determine a preset value based on your user profile. You can estimate or determine this value by actually running several times to get a more accurate maximum heart rate score.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How does Garmin calculate VO2 Max

How do I find VO2Max on Garmin Connect?

To find the VO2 Max on Garmin Connect after having uploaded the data, go to view it in the Reports section. However, note that the number represented is just an estimate. The VO2 Max number can vary between runs and can seem somewhat erratic or inaccurate at first. These types of devices require a few activities to learn more about your performance. 

How accurate is Garmin vo2 max cycling?

The VO2Max estimate compares your HR (as a % of max HR) to your power output. Garmin/Firstbeat claim accuracy to within 5% (which is not bad for consumer-grade electronics).

How do I increase my Garmin vo2 max?

If you would like to increase your Garmin’s VO2 Max, you could work on your aerobic endurance. Firstbeat indicates that you should be able to enact a physiological change in 1 to 12 weeks. If you are on a beginner’s level, you may increase your fitness level in a period of 4 to 10 weeks of training. 

What is a good vo2 max for my age?

A good VO2 Max for your age will depend. But the maximal oxygen uptake norms for men considered ‘good’ ranges between 52-60 in men between 33-37 years. An excellent VO2 Max measure is considered to be >60 in men >37 years old.

Why is vo2 Max going down Garmin?

If you run every day and you do recovery runs the day after tough races or workouts, your VO2 Max estimate will go down because your body is tired and stressed.

References 

Garmin Tips 

Support.garmin.com 

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