While BMI Calculators are an indicator of your health, the most accurate measure of your fitness is your VO2 Max. Calculating your VO2 Max is essentially tells you how efficiently your body is able to convert energy from food into physical movement.
A high VO2 Max is important for endurance athletes, and it is something that will develop as you train harder over time. VO2 Max is normally represented in terms of a ratio of milli-litres of oxygen / kilogram of body weight / per minute and as such allows you to compare your results with a competitor.
There are a number of ways of calculating your VO2 Max score. To get the most accurate possible representation, you would need to actually measure the volume of oxygen you use during a set piece of exercise which requires specialised equipment. This isn’t always practical, however it’s reasonably straightforward to get an accurate estimate of VO2 Max using the simpler Cooper Test.
The Cooper Test
The Cooper test was developed for the US Air Force during the 1950s to measure the fitness of airmen and determine their fitness for service.
To carry out the Cooper Test, you measure the distance in metres that you can run in 12 minutes at peak effort. The following equation is used for calculating your VO2 Max:
As an example, if you were able to run 2.5KM in a 12 minute period, the calculation for your VO2 Max would be:
(2500-505)/45 = 44.33
Your VO2 Max score is always relative to your age and gender. For a man aged 19, 44.33 would represent a “fair” VO2 Max, while for a woman aged 40, it would be “superior”:
For most regular people, both the Cooper test, and the performance bands outlined above are sufficient to determine VO2 Max values with a reasonable degree of accuracy – certainly enough to be able to measure health improvements over time. Truly elite athletes will often have performance values for VO2 max that are off the normal scales. The cyclist Greg Lemond often performed well above a VO2 Max of 88.