VO2 max Testing

When I tell friends that I'm an exercise physiologist, first I get a look of confusion, which is followed closely behind with a sentence resembling, “So like, you do VO2max tests?”

Yes. I do VO2 max tests.

But, VO2max testing is only one item on the menu of what a good exercise physiologist does, and chooses in their repertoire for testing most individuals. If you have ever heard of a VO2max, it might have been that you have tried one yourself, but more likely, is that you heard that the test is insanely hard, pushing a person to their max (fitting title for the test I suppose).

What people often don't hear about VO2max testing is that it is an important indicator of cardiorespiratory health, and the higher it is, the more aerobically fit a person is said to be. On the other end of the spectrum, when VO2max creeps dangerously low in old age and sickness, it is a good indicator and close predictor of death.

Although we hear that "fitness will start to decline after the age of 25", I am a huge advocate in getting testing done to indicate current level of fitness, and to track the numbers, just as you would track your cholesterol, throughout your life. I started college at age 18, and by the time I took my exercise physiology class, I was 20 years old. My VO2max was found to be 52ml/kg/min, which was good at the time for my age and sex. However, it was also motivating, because I love aerobic exercise, and I knew that some of the best aerobic athletes sat around the 60-70 mark for my age. In my last year of my Masters, I sat at 57ml/kg/min after adding more aerobic training and strength training to my weekly workouts. This week, 2 years later, I'm getting tested again to see if any indicators of my fitness have gone up (VO2max, but also thresholds!).

So let's truck on.... what do you need to know about the VO2max test?

What is VO2max testing?

As exercise physiologists, we are concerned most with an athlete’s physiology and how it can improve or hinder performance. In endurance sports especially, the athlete’s VO2max is of interest as it relates to performance1. VO2max is a product of the athlete’s cardiovascular output and arteriole-venous difference in oxygen content 1–4.

Where can I get it done?

Currently there are many companies that do VO2max testing in Calgary, but the current best place to get it done is Peak Power Sport Development. If you read my “About” page, you will see that indeed, I am affiliated with Peak Power, but in the best way. Peak Power took me under their wing when my old workplace closed, and allowed me to house my current athletes and ideas with them, as I got back on my feet. Back to the point – why is Peak Power the best place to get VO2max testing done in Calgary as I write this article? To summarize, we currently offer the highest quality of VO2max testing at the lowest price, along with the highest range of other exercise testing in the city, it appears. The gold standard metabolic cart that we use, along with the highly trained individuals who do the testing and analysis, are currently the best you can get in Calgary.

Reasons to support this:

- $150 VO2 max test on the highest standard of testing equipment, the Parvomedics True One Metabolic Cart. The next closest pricing is $175, but tests can cost as much as $250 in the City of Calgary, currently.

- Add in lactate threshold testing to find accurate training zones $50. If you've read any of my articles on the importance of lactate threshold (anaerobic threshold) testing, you'll understand. If not... click search at the top of this page!

- Add in a body composition test from a certified individual for $30. This is even cheaper than the usual $35 I charge for one body composition test, and much cheaper than the going rate of $37.50 to $50 for a body composition test to know your fat percentage.

- Lactate threshold testing alone $150. Again, in our specialized testing lab you can choose from cycling on a cycle ergometer (which controls for power output), treadmill (in which the protocol can be tailored to your needs or goal), or rower, if this is indeed your sport or mode of exercise of choice.

- Resting Metabolic Rate test (VO2 minimum test) $150. This test is for individuals seeking more information on the base amount of calories they need to consume in a day in order to meet their minimum daily requirements, or to tailor their nutrition programs to weight or fat loss. In this test, we can also tell, based on your Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER), what percentage of fat or carbohydrate you're burning at rest.

- Metabolic Package for $250 (VO2 max and RMR testing).

P.s. We offer these tests in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but if you need more information about testing, feel free to reach out so we can help recommend testing specific to occupational jobs (fire fighters, police officers) who need this testing done in order to pass entrance tests, or for athletes looking to do a high quality test in another city. The beauty of the internet: We can help you from afar!

Happy testing.


1. Basset, D.R., Howley ET. Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. J. Med. Sci. Sport. Exerc. 1999;32(1):70-84.

2. Ferretti G. Maximal oxygen consumption in healthy humans: theories and facts. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 2014;114(10):2007-36. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-2911-0.

3. Hill A V., Lupton H. Muscular Exercise, Lactic Acid, and the Supply and Utilization of Oxygen. Q. J. Mediting 1923;(62):135-171. doi:10.1093/qjmed/os-16.62.135.

4. Astrand, P-O., Saltin B. Maximal oxygen uptake and heart various types of muscular activity. J. Appl. Physiol. 1961;16(6):977-981.

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