Of all the many functions that our body
performs – digestion, excretion, reproduction, movement,
thought, thermoregulation, and sensory awareness – oxygen
transport is the most central and critical.
Oxygen is the spark that allows our enzymes – the energy
generating catalytic converters inside our cells – to combust
food in order to fuel the human machine.
We should be eternally grateful to plants;
they are our oxygen source. We exist and thrive only because of
the results of their thankless task of converting carbon dioxide
into abundant oxygen through the miraculous process of
What’s your oxygen intake?
Exercise physiologists are able to measure
our oxygen consumption. Such measurement is called VO2 Max. The
technique for deriving this number involves applying a nose
clip, and then placing a mouthpiece connected to a collection
receptacle. Then the individual starts on an
increasingly-vigorous exercise protocol on a stationary bicycle
or treadmill, or merely running around the block.
Our body’s ability to extract oxygen from
the atmosphere goes up with each increased amount of exertion
until it reaches a maximal value, our VO2 Max level.
This number represents the body’s best
capacity to suck oxygen from the air, conduct it through the
large respiratory passages to the lungs, then to the heart and
big blood vessels, onto the arteries and arterioles, to the
capillaries, and across to the cell membranes.
Eventually, oxygen arrives at the tiny mitochondria in the
cells, which are our ultimate micro-engines, responsible for
generating energy. This multi-step transport system has a
functional upper limit, and the upper limit is expressed as your
VO2 Max reveals your fitness
Your VO2 Max level is measured in
milliliters of oxygen extracted per minute per kilogram of body
If your VO2 Max level is high, you will be able to do more
strenuous activity for longer without feeling winded or
Conversely, if your VO2 Max level is low, you will become winded
with only minimal activity, like walking a few blocks or just
walking up a flight of stairs. This value is a wonderfully
accurate index of a person’s fitness level.
Ideal VO2 Max levels
An unfit person might have a value of 45ml
per minute per kilogram. A fit person may have a value of 80ml
per minute per kilogram. So far, the highest value recorded is
96ml per minute per kilogram VO2 Max.
Yoga exercises like Pranayama
can help increase in VO2 Max level.