new VO2max Calculations on Apple Watch
VO2max improvements have today landed on the Apple Watch & iPhone
VO2max was always on the Apple Watch but now Apple has tweaked the calculations so that very low-intensity efforts calculate VO2max values. There are also notifications and limited insights added to the results.
Don’t get excited. This is not being introduced for you. Well, not unless you want VO2max calculating from your walks. Apple uses data readings from the optical heart sensor, GPS, and the accelerometer on the watch to do these low-level calculations
It will be interesting to see what changes if any, the new algorithms make to my VO2max. In the previous algorithm, the Apple calculation was very significantly lower than what the sports platforms calculate my VO2max which, in turn, a few years ago were also lower than a proper mask-based test I undertook in a sports lab. Admittedly I’m not as fit now as I was then but, for sure, the previous Apple calculation was way off the mark for me.
As of NOW, you should be able to update to iOS 14.3 and watchOS 7.2 and then check out the Cardio Fitness Levels category in the iPhone Health app on iPhone where you will need to answer a few questions to get started and to say if you want low-level notifications enabled. You should see that your VO2max is interpreted both as an absolute value (it is what it is) and then as an insight, relative value to your age and sex. Mine is reported as HIGH for my age/sex which would be correct but still lower than I thought as an absolute number.
There are also notifications if you VO2max falls to the ‘low range’. Again, this shouldn’t affect athletic types but is a genuine marker of a cause for concern for others in the wider population and definitely a signal that you should change your lifestyle to do something about it.
VO2max – Briefly
VO2max is a measurement of the maximal amount of oxygen your body can burn. Essentially this burning is done in muscles. Thus the efficiency of your muscles determines VO2max as well as other factors such as your body’s ability to transmit oxygen in the blood to and from your lungs. VO2max can be improved through exercise however the maximum you can possibly get it to will naturally decline each year as you age (Wiki).
Muscles naturally atrophise (waste away) as we get older, exacerbated further if we don’t stimulate them (exercise).
I get that most of the readers of this site may probably have turned off by this point. Consider the following
- This is a move for Apple towards more health-focused wellness data rather than sports data.
- Apple tends to be slowish to innovate but tends to innovate more accurately than many other companies
- This announcement marks another step toward Apple delivering significant health/medical/sports metrics over the coming years. It will be a recurring theme of innovation for them.
- You might consider low-level VO2 monitoring important for other family members. At some point, you have to trust a manufacturer to ‘do it properly’ when people’s health is at stake.
Watch: Apple Watch SE, 44mm, GPS Aluminium