Elite VO2 MAX= Five Fold Reduction in "All Cause Mortality"

Djproulx
Djproulx Posts: 2,787 Member
There have been numerous discussions here about the relative importance (or not) of VO2 Max as a measurement of fitness. VO2 Max is the measurement of a person's maximal pulmonary, cardiovascular and muscular capacity to uptake, transport and utilize O2.

While I check my VO2 numbers occasionally for giggles, I never paid much attention to it as a useful training metric.

So this recent podcast really struck me. During an interview on the JRE podcast #1737, Dr Peter Attia was describing the best exercises for longevity. It was no surprise when he described studies that concluded that factors such as strength, muscle mass and cardio vascular fitness were the biggest factors in reducing the risk of death. What surprised me is that of the three factors, he said that people who possessed an elite level VO2 Max showed a FIVE FOLD reduction in All Cause Mortality. (For reference, an elite level VO2 Max reading would place people in the top 2.5% of their age group) There is also a big benefit, around 3X, for people going from being completely de-conditioned to "average" cardio fitness. According to Dr Attia, strength and muscle mass work would layer on additional longevity benefits.

Wow. That is a far better medicine than any drug out there!!

Replies

  • MikePfirrman
    MikePfirrman Posts: 3,105 Member
    edited April 19
    That doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. You know I love to do rowing machine. I attended an online conference a few years ago when the Microbiome research was just coming to the forefront. There's a strong belief within the scientific community that diversity of the microbiome equates to better overall health.

    When they (some Norwegian scientist) did a correlational study on the microbiome composition of different athletes, the three that stood out, much better than all others, were Biathletes, Cyclists and Rowers.

    Since then (I'll see if I can find the study), they've found out one particular bacteria (that's supposed to be very healthy for the Microbiome) loves Lactic Acid. And in turn, helps build up lactic tolerance. So it's kind of full circle -- the more you bathe, so to speak, in lactic acid workouts, the more abundant this little bug becomes, making you healthier and also making you perform better at the same time.

    With that said, my VO2 Max isn't what it used to be. It's probably top 10%, but not what I'd think would be elite any longer. Working at it all the time!
  • Djproulx
    Djproulx Posts: 2,787 Member
    Interesting that you refer to the microbiome. I've been trying to refine my eating habits to lean more and more in a direction that supports optimal gut health.

    As far as the longevity angle, I've always believed that exercise was essential to a long Health Span, but I just didn't think of it as having a such a dramatic impact on mortality. There is no drug that comes close to that level of effectiveness in keeping mortality at bay.

    Regarding VO2 level, we're probably reaping significant benefits at current levels of fitness, ie just outside the optimum category. While I focus about 80% of my training load on muscular and aerobic endurance, its good to know that the high intensity stuff not only helps with speed, but is a health booster as well.

  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,601 Member
    I imagine that simply being a good weight also plays a significant part in the overall picture.
    As VO2 max is in relation to bodyweight those with high scores are predominantly light and lean.

    Side note - when I used a Garmin Edge with a VO2 max estimator it became very obvious that as an old fart it would be a lot easier and faster to diet myself into the top category rather than train myself up at my current weight!

    "its good to know that the high intensity stuff not only helps with speed, but is a health booster as well." Including the impacts on telomere length.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30496493/
  • Djproulx
    Djproulx Posts: 2,787 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    Side note - when I used a Garmin Edge with a VO2 max estimator it became very obvious that as an old fart it would be a lot easier and faster to diet myself into the top category rather than train myself up at my current weight!

    "its good to know that the high intensity stuff not only helps with speed, but is a health booster as well." Including the impacts on telomere length.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30496493/

    Yes, indeed!
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,736 Member
    While I know that there's a genetic component, I've got to believe that having a high VO2max correlates fairly strongly with lots of good behavioral practices (including lower than average body weight as sijomial notes).

    I should go look for the VO2max studies Attia may be referencing, but at first glance it reminds me of those studies that find that (say) high grip strength correlates with longevity, or being able to do at least X chair squats in Y seconds correlates with longevity, or being able to get up off the floor without using your hands correlates with longevity. (Yes, I've seen all of those. Then I've seen some silly people go off and work on their grip strength, chair squats, or standing-from-floor in order to live longer, which I think misses the point.)

    VO2max is probably a better proxy for a range of healthful behavior than those things are, but . . . !
    (snip)

    When they (some Norwegian scientist) did a correlational study on the microbiome composition of different athletes, the three that stood out, much better than all others, were Biathletes, Cyclists and Rowers.
    (snip)

    Biathletes, but not XC skiers? That seems weird. Does inhaling smokeless powder fumes have some beneficial effect? 😉 (JK, obviously.)
  • BrianSharpe
    BrianSharpe Posts: 9,148 Member
    I'm pretty sure that the VO2 Max that my Garmin estimates isn't entirely accurate but it certainly is a good ego boost having it tell you that your fitness is just over half your chronological age (or else the average 34 year old these days is in horrible shape).

    I still have a ways to go to reach the "elite" levels.....
  • NorthCascades
    NorthCascades Posts: 10,893 Member
    What I've read over the years is that VO2max is very highly correlated with longevity. Grip strength is correlated with quality of life in your later years.

    As mentioned, a high VO2 implies a low weight. Also, in order to transport lots of oxygen your body has to be working properly. Having an elite level VO2max basically rules out COPD, most heart disease, and a lot of other things that can kill you.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 24,736 Member
    What I've read over the years is that VO2max is very highly correlated with longevity. Grip strength is correlated with quality of life in your later years.

    As mentioned, a high VO2 implies a low weight. Also, in order to transport lots of oxygen your body has to be working properly. Having an elite level VO2max basically rules out COPD, most heart disease, and a lot of other things that can kill you.

    The commonality underlying all of this stuff is something like being active and pursuing fitness: That general lifestyle results (statistically) in strong grip strength, better number of squats per minute, being able to get up off the floor without using hands at age X, relatively lower body weight . . . and at an extreme, a high VO2max. There are outliers on any one measure, I'm sure, but those things tend to cluster.

    I'm betting there tend to be other correlates of elite VO2max, too, like excellent nutrition, probably decent sleep habits, blah blah blah, because the things people do to pursue elite VO2max (or improve at a pursuit that requires it) tend to include a good diet, sleep habits, other good habits, etc.

    Those things pay off, statistically, in better health and longevity.

    At a certain point, there's a bidirectionality to this, too: People to whom something terrible happens (physically disabling car accident, say) probably don't mostly have a high VO2max, because they mostly couldn't do what it takes to achieve and maintain it. People who develop a severe health condition probably tend to lose whatever high VO2max they've developed, eventually. If someone has a genetic heart disease, for example, or develops COPD for reasons of genetics or second-hand smoke or at-risk occupation, their VO2max will probably devolve, because they can't do all the things to maintain it.

    In that sense, people who aren't going to experience longevity don't have a high VO2max: Bidirectionality.
  • yirara
    yirara Posts: 7,342 Member
    I can easily increase my vo2max by doing a 1km run all out every evening. Garmin calculates it based on lots of things, including HR. On a 1km run my HR is still increasing as it's warm up, and hence on average much lower than a 5km run. Which gives crazy numbers. Of course this doesn't make any sense.
  • thisvickyruns
    thisvickyruns Posts: 190 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    I imagine that simply being a good weight also plays a significant part in the overall picture.
    As VO2 max is in relation to bodyweight those with high scores are predominantly light and lean.

    Side note - when I used a Garmin Edge with a VO2 max estimator it became very obvious that as an old fart it would be a lot easier and faster to diet myself into the top category rather than train myself up at my current weight!

    "its good to know that the high intensity stuff not only helps with speed, but is a health booster as well." Including the impacts on telomere length.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30496493/

    this is what really upsets me about my Fenix... it says I'm top 5% but to improve further I should lose weight... at 5ft5 and 134lbs I really don't need to lose weight. stupid!
  • Djproulx
    Djproulx Posts: 2,787 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    I imagine that simply being a good weight also plays a significant part in the overall picture.
    As VO2 max is in relation to bodyweight those with high scores are predominantly light and lean.

    Side note - when I used a Garmin Edge with a VO2 max estimator it became very obvious that as an old fart it would be a lot easier and faster to diet myself into the top category rather than train myself up at my current weight!

    "its good to know that the high intensity stuff not only helps with speed, but is a health booster as well." Including the impacts on telomere length.

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30496493/

    this is what really upsets me about my Fenix... it says I'm top 5% but to improve further I should lose weight... at 5ft5 and 134lbs I really don't need to lose weight. stupid!

    While you may not like Garmin's suggestion, I would say that you're in a fantastic position at a top 5% level of fitness. I know how much work is involved to get there. Congrats!