Tests of maximum oxygen intake. A critical review

Sports Med. Mar-Apr 1984;1(2):99-124. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198401020-00002.


The determinants of endurance effort vary, depending upon the extent of the muscle mass that is activated. Large muscle work, such as treadmill running, is halted by impending circulatory failure; lack of venous return may compound the basic problem of an excessive cardiac work-load. If the task calls for use of a smaller muscle mass, there is ultimately difficulty in perfusing the active muscles, and glycolysis is halted by an accumulation of acid metabolites. Simple field tests of endurance, such as Cooper's 12-minute run and the Canadian Home Fitness Test, have some value in the rapid screening of large populations, but like other submaximal tests of human performance they lack the precision needed to advise the individual. The directly measured maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max) varies with the type of exercise. The highest values are obtained during uphill treadmill running, but well trained athletes often approach these values during performance of sport-specific tasks. Limitations of methodology and wide interindividual variations of constitutional potential limit the interpretation of maximum oxygen intake data in terms of personal fitness, exercise prescription and the monitoring of training responses. The main practical value of VO2 max measurement is in the functional assessment of patients with cardiorespiratory disease, since changes are then large relative to the precision of the test.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Temperature
  • Cardiac Output
  • Exercise Test
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Exertion
  • Physical Fitness