What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age And Sex?

Photo of author
Written by
Last Updated:

VO2 max, which is a measure of your maximal oxygen uptake, can be a particularly useful metric for cyclists because it’s a reflection of your aerobic capacity.

Many cyclists have a vague understanding of VO2 max, but it can be confusing to know how to interpret VO2 max and how to use it to inform training.

For example, what is a good VO2 max by age and sex? And what is a good VO2 max for cyclists?

In this article, we’ll discuss factors that affect VO2 max and how to interpret your VO2 max, with a specific emphasis on what is a good VO2 max by age and sex for cyclists.

We’ll be covering: 

  • What Is VO2 Max?
  • What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age And Sex?
  • What Is A Good VO2 Max Based On Percentiles?
  • What Is A Good VO2 Max For Cyclists?

Let’s get started!

What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age And Sex: Title Image

What Is VO2 Max?

VO2 max, also known as maximum oxygen intake, refers to the maximum volume of oxygen (in milliliters) your body is able to use per minute per kilogram of body weight when cycling or performing some other form of intense exercise. 

VO2 max is measured in milliliters per kilogram per minute (mL/kg/min), denoting the number of milligrams of oxygen you can consume, per kilogram of body weight, per minute of exercise.

Your VO2 max is essentially a number that encapsulates the maximum rate at which you can take in oxygen, transport it to your muscles, and use it efficiently for aerobic energy production.

Therefore, the higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen you can take in, so your muscles can work at a higher intensity.

Because your VO2 max is a measure of how much oxygen you are able to take in and use during high-intensity exercise, it is a measure of your aerobic fitness.

In fact, VO2 max is considered the gold standard measurement of aerobic fitness, and due to years of research and reliance on this physiological measurement, there are established norms for VO2 max values based on age and sex.

These norms can help you assess how fit you are relative to the general population and elite athletes.

The higher your VO2 max, the better your cardiovascular fitness and more “highly trained” you are from an aerobic exercise standpoint.

A cyclist rides up a steep hill to put their VO2 max to the test.

What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age And Sex?

Although it’s not possible to properly measure your VO2 max unless you undergo VO2 testing (a graded test performed on a treadmill or stationary bike), there are ways to estimate your VO2 max.

Examples of VO2 max estimation protocols include the Rockport Walk Test, the 1.5-Mile Test, the Cooper VO2 Max Test, and the YMCA Cycle Ergometer Test. 

Additionally, higher-end running or cycling watches now have algorithms that estimate your VO2 max based on your heart rate, pace, and relative effort level.

For example, Garmin watches such as the Fenix and some Vivoactive, Venu, and Forerunner models estimate VO2 max, as does the Polar Pacer.

Below are tables that display VO2 max by age and sex as taken from the Physical Fitness Specialist Certification Manual from The Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, Dallas.

Cooper Institute: What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age (Male)

AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior
13-19Under 35.035.0-38.338.4-45.145.2-50.951.0-55.9Over 55.9
20-29Under 33.033.0-36.436.5-42.442.5-46.446.5-52.4Over 52.4
30-39Under 31.531.5-35.435.5-40.941.0-44.945.0-49.4Over 49.4
40-49Under 30.230.2-33.533.6-38.939.0-43.743.8-48.0Over 48.0
50-59Under 26.126.1-30.931.0-35.735.8-40.941.0-45.3Over 45.3
60+Under 20.520.5-26.026.1-32.232.3-36.436.5-44.2Over 44.2

Cooper Institute: What Is A Good VO2 Max By Age (Female)

AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior
13-19Under 25.025.0-30.931.0-34.935.0-38.939.0-41.9Over 41.9
20-29Under 23.623.6-28.929.0-32.933.0-36.937.0-41.0Over 41.0
30-39Under 22.822.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.635.7-40.0Over 40.0
40-49Under 21.021.0-24.424.5-28.929.0-32.832.9-36.9Over 36.9
50-59Under 20.220.2-22.722.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.7Over 35.7
60+Under 17.517.5-20.120.2-24.424.5-30.230.3-31.4Over 31.4
A cyclist on a black road bike demonstrates what is a good VO2 max.

What Is A Good VO2 Max Based On Percentiles?

For a newer (and slightly more precise) breakdown of VO2 max by age and sex, we can look at data taken from the Fitness Registry and the Importance of Exercise, which provides VO2 max percentiles by age and sex. 

VO2 max percentiles allow you to more quantitatively compare your VO2 max to age and sex-matched peers. 

For example, if you’re a 44-year-old male with a VO2 max of 45 mL/kg/min, you’re in about the 75th percentile for your age. This means that your VO2 max is higher than about 75 percent of men your age.

VO2 Max Percentiles By Age (Male)

Age5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile

VO2 Max Percentiles By Age (Female)

Age5th Percentile10th Percentile25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile90th Percentile95th Percentile

The good news is that even if your VO2 max is well below the elites in the sport, or even below the average for your age and sex, VO2 max can be improved through consistent training and performing workouts that challenge your cardiovascular fitness. 

Therefore, monitoring your VO2 max is a good way to keep tabs on improvements in your aerobic fitness and the effectiveness of your training plan.

A group of pro cyclists lead the peloton in a road race.

What Is A Good VO2 Max for Cyclists?

Given the cardiovascular demand of long-distance cycling, it’s probably not surprising that cyclists tend to have high VO2 max scores, and certainly higher than the average VO2 max value for their age and sex.

Interestingly, the highest VO2 Max ever recorded was from a cyclist – Norwegian Oskar Svendsen – who reportedly measured an unbelievable 97.5 mL/kg/min.

Other top cyclists have also had extremely impressive VO2 max values.

VO2 max testing showed two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome achieved 84.6 mL/kg/min in August 2015, while Norwegian pro Thor Hushovd attained a VO2 max score of 86 ml/kg/min.

In women’s cycling, Flavia Oliveira achieved a VO2 max of 76.0 ml/kg/min shortly before finishing 7th in the road race at the 2016 Rio Olympics, suggesting the level of VO2 max that might be typical for a professional female cyclist.

Although there’s a wide range of data points you can monitor these days with the technology available in cycling watches and fitness monitors, if you have access to VO2 max estimates, it can be invaluable to assess and monitor over time.

Found These VO2 Max Charts Helpful? Check Out More From The BikeTips Experts Below!

Photo of author
With over a decade of experience as a certified personal trainer, two Masters degrees (Exercise Science and Prosthetics and Orthotics), and as a UESCA-certified endurance nutrition and triathlon coach, Amber is as well-qualified as they come when it comes to handling sports science topics for BikeTips. Amber's experience as a triathlon coach demonstrates her broad and deep knowledge of performance cycling.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.