new VO2max on Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE w/MonoWear strap

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.

What Gives?

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).

Take out

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
Strap: MonoWear

Reader-Powered Content

This content is not sponsored. It’s mostly me behind the labour of love which is this site and I appreciate everyone who follows, subscribes or Buys Me A Coffee ❤️ Alternatively please buy the reviewed product from my partners at their regular price. Thank you! FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: Links may pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

8 thoughts on “new VO2max on Apple Watch

  1. I noticed the HR mimics the sampling frequency of a workout while walking now. I assume this is required to calculate VO2 while walking outside of a defined workout.

    1. hmmm
      i’ll have a look tomorrow
      so you mean that: sitting down, the hr fires up as before (periodically)
      but walking its firing up constantly.
      your assumption sounds sensible.

  2. I get that most of the readers may probably have turned off by this point, but I suspect walking segments hold the next best chance to improve the lives of the common citizen. In this manner most anyone could KOM for at least for one glistening moment.

    The trend of devices providing quasi-health advice is interesting. I suspect the automatic move bar gets turned off earliest of the nagging-helpfulness bits. The big questions is whether people with a low VO2Max score care or if they instead feel it is fine because they haven’t yet really bothered to improve it. Lots of room for growth from the bottom.

      1. Setting aside the dark humor for a bit, I think the one problem is that a significant portion of the population emotionally decides they have time to invest in their health later because they think they feel fine today. The score drop may not correspond to a change in perception. Something like a Walking Segment rank or similar to a Garmin Insight report that shows them how many people are successfully doing better may spark some mildly competitive response.

      2. yep
        another great thing for people is the TRAINNIG TODAY app (kinda like Garmin body battery) . gives an hour by hour HRV interpretation.
        eg if you have 2 glasses of wine you can absolutely see the effect this has on your normal hrv status…well both my partner and I can.

  3. This is pointless for anyone who doesn’t run. I walk, from 3 to 6K every day, and swim 1K several times a week, yet my VO2 is low (32) and connected app Withings tells me I am in low fitness form, which I don’t think it’s true of someone who can swim 1K in open sea in 25 minutes. It is quite disheartening to make the effort, only for this crappy apps to tell you this crap.

    1. my understanding is that the basic VO2max models only work for running on essentially flat roads and for cycling with a power meter – that’s independent of manufacturer
      garmin has added the ability to account for trail run, apple the ability to cope for low intensity efforts. apple are specifically aiming this at you! I’m not saying it’s right! in fact,
      i would agree that apple could underestimate my vo2max by up to 10 points.

Comments are closed.