Relationship between VO2 and Heart Rate

Although widely used by many endurance athletes, VO2 is one of the most confusing terminologies. In layman’s language, the term is used to refer to the volume of oxygen that is consumed by the body and is commonly used in exercises. Perhaps a more confusing term is the VO2 max which is largely connoted as the optimal standard of measuring cardiovascular fitness. However, that is largely the most understood part and the extra beyond the semantics is always not understood. While VO2 is a measure of the amount of oxygen in millimeters that is consumed for every unit body weight in a minute, the heart rate is simply a measure of the number of beats per minute. Moreover, the higher the value of VO2 for a person is the more cardiovascular strength they possess. In contrast, however, a higher heart rate could spell doom for an individual especially when it surpasses the normal rates (Achten & Jeukendrup, 2003). Still, the interrelatedness of the VO2 and heart rates of persons is even more appalling to the common citizens. In the test, the subject selected was an athlete aged 28 years with a height of 157 centimeters and a weight of 62 kilograms.

The existence of a heart beat within one’s body is one of the most important aspects in the survival of individuals. In sports, the heart rate and the subsequent VO2 level are equally important and even to more degrees. The human heart has the responsibility of pumping blood to all the body organs and parts and consistent beating is therefore important. It is like a machine that is easily adaptable to make one stronger and even faster. Ideally, an increase in the frequency and magnitude of work outs leads to a stronger heart as it gets used to supplying blood faster. In the similar fashion, the muscles increase their efficiency in terms of collecting oxygen from the bloodstream for the process of respiration. Ultimately, therefore, the increase in the magnitude of work outs results in higher efficiencies in the extraction of oxygen from the blood as well as the process of respiration. Athletes who require improved performances must continue to stress the interconnected systems in a highly healthy manner.

In the process of training enhancement, athletes and ordinary people must target specific heart rate zones thus helping in the attainment of the fitness goals. As thus, the heart rate is zoned into different regions, each of which must be targeted in unique fashion to attain specific training goals. In the first energy efficient zone, basic endurance is developed and accounts for about 65% of the maximum heart rate (Mezzani et al, 2007). In the second aerobic zone, the body’s ability to enhance the transportation of oxygen into the muscles is enhanced eating into about 75% of the maximum heart rate. There is a further third zone also known as the anaerobic zone which forms about 85% of the individual’s maximum heart rate. In this zone, the development of the lactic acid system is attained through the improvement of the anaerobic threshold. Lastly is the red line zone which helps in the building of speed and consists approximately 95% of the maximum heart rate.

In terms of calculating an individual’s strength in training, the VO2 max is the best calculation for cardio-respiratory wellbeing. The relationship of this measure and the heart rate is evident in the direct proportionality of increases in the two units. In the process of exercising, one’s heart rate is bound to increase to numbers higher than the normal. Indeed, there is a discrepancy in the heart rate of a resting position and one calculated during training with the latter being more. Just as the heart rate increases with the magnitude of exercise, so does the transportation of oxygen and its eventual delivery to the body. In addition, the two variables of VO2 and heart rate have a highly dependent relationship making them highly important in measuring cardiovascular strength (Day et al, 2003). It is not surprising therefore that most trainers and trainees set their focus on attaining targets in the two variables.

One of the relationships of heart rate and VO2 is in the measurement of the latter’s maximum. In measuring the VO2 max, cardio equipment is used such as stationary bikes or treadmills and then the test done. In the course of the measurement, the athlete is asked to start their training on either of the prescribed cardio equipment and their measurements taken. Essentially, measurement of an individual’s VO2 must be done in a laboratory to aid in the collection and recording of all the required data both prior to and during the process. Both intensity of the exercise and the resulting heart rate are gradually increased to improve the amount of oxygen transported to the body. In the same process, the amount of oxygen inhaled as well as the amount of carbon dioxide exhaled is recorded using a breathing mask that is tied on the individual being tested. Ultimately, the measure of VO2 is ascertained when the consumption of oxygen stagnates regardless of the increase in the intensity of the exercise (Brown et al, 2006). Clearly, everyone has a VO2 maximum measure which may increase or decreased over time and which is dependent on the heart rate.

The measurement of one’s heart rate and VO2 max is highly important in the tracking of the fitness levels of the athletes especially. Further, the correct measurements are important in the prescription of the right exercises depending on the individual requirements of the individuals. Indeed, the different values of the two variables help professionals to provide the right exercises in the safest and most effective manner depending on the different fitness levels. Besides tracking the fitness levels of individuals, the variables are important tools in training in the holistic realm of cardiac rehabilitation. Moreover, the measure of oxygen intake and consumption as well as the cardiac functions is important in the improvement of health among new athletes (Day et al, 2003). Similarly, the measures are equally beneficial in performance improvement of trained endurance athletes. However, it is not just in the athletics field that the measures have proven to be of critical importance. Rather, measures of heart rate and VO2 are useful to cardiac patients who are in the process of improving their general cardiac functioning.

It is true that individuals can effectively improve their heart rates as well as their VO2 max levels through exercises. In fact, researchers have found out that working out three times every week under strict specified conditions has a positive influence on the value of one’s VO2. The exercises should be conducted at intensities that increase the heart rate to a level of between 65 and 95% of the maximum heart rate for about 20 minutes. The relationship in this is that increased heart rates will directly lead to improved VO2 max rates when done for a specified period of time (Welk, 2002). The rationale behind this relationship is bound on the fact that intensified exercises result in higher heart rates that eventually contribute to increases in the amount of oxygen consumed. In truth, a person exercising at higher intensity levels will likely have higher oxygen consumption levels compared to those not taking exercises.

Individuals with high levels of VO2 max have lower heart rates when in resting positions such as very early in the morning. This relationship is constant and is one of the parameters used in ascertaining the probability of individuals to contract cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the people with higher VO2 max are likely to exhibit lower blood pressure and therefore less likely to acquire chronic diseases. The benefit of having a high VO2 max is in the relationship that the above attributes have with being fit thus ensuring one has lower risks of getting chronic ailments. Generally, therefore, higher values of VO2 max are attributable to better health conditions. However, the healthy ranges are dependent on other factors including gender and age of the individual (McArdle et al , 2006). For instance, a 24 year old may have similar VO2 max levels with a 65 year old but the older person considered to have a better cardiovascular fitness. This is because of the different body requirements across different ages in adult and young populations. The knowledge of one’s VO2 max is thus important in the understanding of the current fitness level. In addition, the same scale can be used in the determination of the necessary adjustments and improvements requisite for improved VO2 max ranges.

The relationship of the two variables forms an important aspect ion the determination of fitness levels among both athletes and cardiovascular patients. Moreover, the same variables can be put into use in the improvement of health for individuals who need to perform at specified levels of oxygen consumption. The process of VO2 max testing is done in intense exercises and requires a raise in the heart rates to levels that are stressful to the body. All this is done with the goal of pushing the body to its maximum levels to effectively gauge the required changes. In so doing, professionals and even doctors can measure the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can utilize during exercise with certainty (Welk, 2002). The process of testing requires a well calculated script to avoid instances where the body is stretched to limits that have negative implications on the health of the individual being tested. As thus, special care should be taken to ensure that the health and medical history of the individual is well understood prior to the testing. It is highly recommended that individuals with a history of cardiovascular problems be tested under the strict supervision of health professionals.

Although the VO2 max and the heart rate are closely related in their manifestations, they are not similar. In fact, the two variables are used for measuring the same units which is cardiovascular fitness and can act as points of alarm in case of negative changes. The relationship between the two is such that there is a direct relationship between heart rate and the rate of oxygen consumption. In truth, training that pushes one closer to their maximum heart rate has the same effect on the oxygen consumption. As thus the nearer one is to their maximum heart rate, the nearer they are to their VO2 max levels. During high intensity intervals, a person training does so at nearly the maximum VO2 max and maximum heart rates. Moreover, high VO2 max rates are attributed to very good cardiovascular fitness just as low resting heart rates are.

The rate of oxygen consumption decreases with increase in age thus leading to relatively lower VO2 max rates. In this respect, therefore, the criteria for the optimal or best VO2 max also decreases as an individual becomes older. The interrelatedness of the two variables is continually manifested even in the measure of the general health of individuals. While the VO2 max is an absolute measure of the efficiency of the lungs, the heart rate is a clear indication of the heart’s efficiency. Despite this difference, however, both organs need to function efficiently for healthy living and the respective measure must also be at the correct ranges. In addition, higher levels of VO2 max are signs of better health and medical conditions (McArdle et al, 2006). However, higher resting heart rate levels are signs of poor health conditions and lower levels of the same are desirable. Here, we encounter two related variables that function in uniquely different ways.

The relationship between the VO2 max arte and the heart rate for individuals is indubitably acknowledged. The importance the two variables are also clear in relation to the well being and the cardiovascular fitness of the individuals under study. However, the same variables are also distinctly different and unique in their manifestation. For instance, changes in resting heart rates due to changes in age are insignificantly high while changes in VO2 max are explicit in their occurrence. The question as to which of the two variables is most suitable in the determination of fitness is highly debatable depending on the focus points and parameters in use. While heart rate provides important insights in determining the fitness based on the functioning of the heart, the VO2 max is highly effective in the same but based on the functioning of the lungs.



Achten, J., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2003). Heart rate monitoring. Sports medicine, 33(7), 517-538.

Brown, S. P., Miller, W. C., & Eason, J. M. (2006). Exercise physiology: Basis of human movement in health and disease. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Day, J. R., Rossiter, H. B., Coats, E. M., Skasick, A., & Whipp, B. J. (2003). The maximally attainable VO2 during exercise in humans: the peak vs. maximum issue. Journal of applied physiology, 95(5), 1901-1907.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2006). Essentials of exercise physiology. Baltimore, Mar: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Mezzani, A., Corrà, U., Giordano, A., Cafagna, M., Adriano, E. P., & Giannuzzi, P. (2007). Unreliability of the% VO2 reserve versus% heart rate reserve relationship for aerobic effort relative intensity assessment in chronic heart failure patients on or off beta-blocking therapy. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation, 14(1), 92-98.

Welk, G. (2002). Physical activity assessments for health-related research. Champaign, Ill: Human Kinetics.


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