Do Genetics Affect Your VO2 Max and Training?

Your VO2 max is the max amount of oxygen your body absorbs during exercise. Although movement can influence this max, your genes play a bigger role. Learn more.

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It is well-known that regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and improves cardiovascular fitness. This is partly due to your VO2 max– the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. Everyone’s max is different, and your number is most likely tied to your genetics. 

‍The number of people who exercise at home has increased since the COVID-19 outbreak. Some say high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best workout for a tight schedule. However, your body’s response to exercise depends on the type of exercise you perform and your overall fitness and health. 

While your VO2 max is just one measurement used to determine your body’s overall efficiency during exercise, it is a crucial component in evaluating your overall health, especially as you age. 

Whether you are genetically predisposed to a higher or lower VO2 max, there are organic ways to maintain and improve yours that exist outside of genetic and environmental factors to maintain and improve yours.

Before we get into improving your VO2 max, let’s discuss exactly what it is and how it is calculated. We will also share some valuable research data that confirms a tie between VO2 max and genetics in further detail. 

What is VO2 Max?

VO2 Max is defined as the maximum rate of oxygen your body can absorb during exercise. 

As you breathe in oxygen, during exercise or otherwise, your lungs absorb it and turn it into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used for energy. ATP works by powering your cells and helps remove carbon dioxide as you exhale.

The greater your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can absorb, making it more efficient in energy production. 

Those with a higher VO2 can handle higher aerobic fitness options such as running, swimming, and high-level cardiovascular endurance. 

Many athletes use VO2 max as a benchmark to track overall progress and improve their abilities. 

How is VO2 Max Measured?

In most instances, VO2 max measurements are performed in a doctor’s office or hospital by a doctor or cardiologist.

A VO2 max test may include any of the following:

What Should My VO2 Max Be?

The short answer is that it depends. 

Various factors play a role in your VO2 max number, including:

How to Improve VO2 Max?

As you age, your VO2 max naturally decreases.

The best ways to improve or maintain your VO2 max number is to:

While many people look to improve their VO2 max to improve their overall training level, they often neglect to realize that this important measurement can be influenced, from birth, by your genetics. 

Understanding the Role of Genetics in VO2 Max and Training

Individual variability is tissue-specific and how someone converts energy. 

One aspect of health is how your cells function and your body processes things. This processing is often referred to as cellular mitochondria. Exercise has been associated with improved mitochondrial function and content.

Some inherited genes have been associated with athletic performance in highly trained populations and in response to exercise training in the general population.1 

However, findings have been inconsistent. Exercise-related genetic variants remain unknown because these studies have primarily utilized targeted genotyping technology, such as candidate gene approaches, and lacked robust technical measures on aerobic fitness.

In these circumstances, researchers examined the association between genetic variants. 2,3

In total, 62 participants successfully completed four weeks of a HIIT intervention protocol. 

This study tracked exercise responses for key physiological traits, delta (Δ), or the change in quantitative trait data (Post phenotype–Pre phenotype) was calculated for the following traits: 

This study suggests specific genes (and novel nuclear-encoded SNPs) are associated with exercise response. 4

Future studies should focus on validating these findings by working with different people and ethnicities. 

How Do I Know If My Genes Play a Role in my VO2 Max Number? 

DNA analysis might be the best way to determine your genetic effect on VO2 max.

A DNA testing kit is simple to use, and your genetic DNA testing results can reveal many answers to the questions you may have about your aerobic levels, including how well your body absorbs and processes oxygen.

Once you’ve taken an at-home DNA test, you can use your raw DNA file to analyze your genetic profile.

Before you hop on the treadmill or head to the gym for another HIIT session, we encourage you to unlock your full genetic potential with us.

Simply sign in to the Genomelink dashboard to upload your DNA file, and our experts will take care of the rest.

1 The mitochondrial genome encodes 37 highly conserved genes but differs slightly amongst different regional isolates (haplogroups). 

Mitochondrial haplogroups and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in conjunction with SNPs in mitochondrial-related genes (nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins: NEMPs), have previously


3including mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variants and variants of NEMPs, and aerobic fitness measures in the well-characterized Gene Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Training (SMART) cohort. 

4All of the following showed associations with the phenotype using the dominant genetic model. 

Specifically, the NDUFAF7 gene encodes an arginine methyltransferase, essential for mitochondrial.

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