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How Does Garmin Calculate VO2 Max? (What You Should Know)


Garmin is one of the few brands with smartwatches that can detect the intensity of your workouts. And it does so by measuring a metric called VO2 Max. But how exactly does Garmin calculate VO2 Max in the first place?

Garmin calculates VO2 Max by examining the link between your pace and heart rate. If you run for at least 15 minutes and have your heart rate raised by at least 70%, you’re more than likely to get accurate readings. A higher VO2 Max score is an indication that you’re getting into shape. 

In this guide, I’ll tell you everything you should know about the VO2 Max on Garmin. In particular, you’ll discover:

  • What VO2 Max is on Garmin and why it’s important
  • How the VO2 Max estimate on Garmin works
  • Exactly how a Garmin smartwatch measures VO2 Max
  • Examples of Garmin smartwatches that can calculate VO2 Max
  • How accurate the Garmin VO2 Max is
  • How to increase your Garmin VO2 Max score

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What is VO2 Max Estimate on Garmin?

The VO2 Max estimated value recorded by a Garmin watch is the highest amount of oxygen the human body consumes per minute per kilogram when indulging in intense physical activities.

Your VO2 Max escalates as your fitness level enhances, and, often, you’ll get a reliable estimate of how efficiently your body cells use oxygen for energy. 

Why Is VO2 Max Important?

VO2 Max is important because it helps you to see, manage, and understand your fitness levels.

If your Garmin smartwatch reports a lower VO2 Max, it means your fitness levels are low. On the other hand, when your Garmin detects a higher VO2 Max score it is an indication that your fitness levels are good.

Keep in mind that how you do your exercises as well as your way of life can affect how the cells in your body consume oxygen and turn that oxygen to energy. At least that’s a solid reason why Garmin considers the VO2 Max as dynamic. 

How Does Garmin Calculate VO2 Max?

Garmin uses the Firstbeat Fitness Test technology to determine VO2 Max from the different types of physical activities.

To be clear, a Garmin smartwatch with VO2 Max functionality will use your personal information, heart rate, and speed. The technology will split the data collected into HR scales depending on the personal information you provide.

Furthermore, Garmin will evaluate recurring activities and use the most reliable segment of heart rate and speed data to estimate the level of your aerobic fitness.

Best Garmin Watches With VO2 Max

Some of the best Garmin watches with VO2 Max are:

  • Garmin Vivoactive 3
  • Garmin Forerunner 45
  • Garmin Fenix 6S

Let’s briefly discuss each watch to find out what makes them good enough for measuring VO2 Max.

1. Garmin Vivoactive 3

Garmin Vivoactive 3 is an ultra-thin and lightweight smartwatch that feels comfortable on the wrist. The smartwatch comes with sports apps and activity tracking to help you develop and lead a healthy and fit lifestyle.

Apart from measuring the amount of oxygen the body consumes, Garmin Vivoactive will also help you to monitor your stress levels.

What’s more?

The Vivoactive 3 comes preloaded with at least 15 sports apps, including one for swimming, cyclin, and yoga. Take advantage of these technologies and work to improve the quality of your everyday health and fitness.

Click Here to Buy Vivoactive 3

2. Garmin Forerunner 45

Garmin Forerunner 45 can fit anyone, but it’s particularly a model for those who prefer sleek and lightweight smartwatches.

There’s of course a lot to say about the Forerunner 45.

For what it’s worth, thousands of users, from runners to casual wearers, praise it for its accuracy. If anything, expect the VO2 Max estimate to be reliable and useful.

Garmin Forerunner 45 battery can last about a week on full charge, so you can keep track of oxygen consumption without worrying about the battery dying out fast. However, do keep in mind that the battery can last only 10 to13 hours in built-in GPS mode.

Click Here to Buy Forerunner 45

3. Garmin Fenix 6S

Garmin Fenix 6S is a rugged, multisport GPS watch that allows you to add maps while running or cycling.

In addition to measuring VO2 Max, the Garmin Fenix 6S includes training dynamics that monitor recovery time and hydration. Also, the watch provides workout suggestions that can help you improve your VO2 Max score.

Fenix 6S has a 9-day battery life. And although it isn’t the best in the runtime per charge department, it includes a power-saving mode that allows you to extended runtime on a single charge.

Click Here to Buy Garmin Fenix 6S

How Accurate is Garmin VO2 Max?

One of the greatest achievements Garmin has made on its watches is including a VO2 Max technology that can analyze our training much better. But how accurate are the Garmin VO2 Max result?

Well, the Garmin VO2 Max estimates are, in my view, quite reliable.

Garmin VO2 Max estimate is 95% correct with an error of less than 3.5ml/kg/min. The majority of sub-maximal results come with errors of 10 to 15%.

It is important to note that, the VO2 Max gives an error of about 9% when the Heart Rate Max is low by 15 beats per minute. Set the Heart Rate high by 15 beats per minute, and you will notice a difference of approximately 7%.

So, the more your activities are monitored and accurate user information provided the more the technology (Firstbeat) becomes a great tool for estimating VO2 Max.

VO2 Max Estimate Chart for Men

The table below shows an average of VO2 Max estimate for men based on their age group.

Age18 to 2526 to 3536 to 4546 to 5556 to 6566 +
Above Average47-5143-4839-4236-3832-3529-32
Below Average37-4135-3931-3429-3126-2922-25
Very PoorUnder 30Under 30Under 26Under 25Under 22Under 20

I suggest aiming for the highest score, in your age group, although, in my opinion, there really isn’t anything wrong with being above average if you’re just getting started with working out.

VO2 Max Estimate Chart for Women

The table below is an average estimate of VO2 Max for women based on their age group.

Age18 to 2526 to 3536 to 4546 to 5556 to 6566+
Good47 to 5645 to 5238 to 4534 to 4032 to 3728 to 32
Above average42 to 4639 to 4434 to 3731 to 3328 to 3125 to 27
Average38 to 4135 to 3831 to 3328 to 3025 to 2722 to 24
Below average33 to 3731 to 3427 to 3025 to 2722 to 2419 to 21
Poor28 to 3226 to 3022 to 2620 to 2418 to 2117 to 18
Very poorUnder 28Under 26Under 22Under 20Under 18Under 17

Try to aim for the highest score. However, it’s okay if you hit the above average line, especially if you’re just getting started with intensive workout.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Highest VO2 Max on Garmin?

The peak fitness potentiality for both men and women is at the age of 20. Healthy individuals see a fitness decline of 5% to 20% after every 10 years once they are past the age of 20.

There’s a big decline in fitness levels when individuals reach the age of 70.

Even so, the highest VO2 Max on Garmin stands at 61ml/kg/min where your fitness age is still of an excellent 20-year-old.

Seniors can’t achieve such a high VO2 Max reading because their hearts are beating at a low rate, which also makes the force at which the heart is pumping oxygenated blood to muscles reduce.

2. What Activities Does Garmin Use to Calculate VO2 Max?

Garmin uses five types of activities to determine your VO2 Max. And they’re as follows:

  • Cycling
  • Running on leveled grounds
  • Walking
  • Rowing indoors
  • Running on terrains

Garmin calculates these activities on four units, which are speed, power, inclination, and weight, expressed in kilometers per hour (Km/h), Watts (W), degrees (°), and Kilograms (Kg) respectively.

3. How Often Does Garmin VO2 Max Update?

Garmin updates VO2 Max in the Garmin Connect app every 30 days.

Do keep in mind that the data you get in the app is just but an estimate. While Garmin doesn’t guarantee 100% accuracy, the estimates tend to be reliable and incredibly helpful.  

4. How Can I Increase My Garmin VO2 Max Score?

The best way to improve your Garmin VO2 Max score is by creating a workout schedule that you can follow regularly.

It doesn’t help to create a workout schedule you can’t stick with. Otherwise, you won’t get the most reliable VO2 Max result.

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Final Thoughts

I hope this guide has helped you to understand something about how Garmin calculates the VO2 Max.

Remember, the higher your VO2 Max is, the better.

It’s perfectly fine if your score is above average in the beginning. However, aim at intensifying your workout levels, increasing your score, and getting into shape over time.

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Michael Jonathan

Michael Jonathan is the brainchild of Apelo Studio. He loves talking about wearable devices, and he is passionate about helping you push your wearable device to its limits. His creativity and ability to tear electric components apart and put them back together makes him an incredible troubleshooter and blogger.

2 thoughts on “How Does Garmin Calculate VO2 Max? (What You Should Know)”

  1. As to the percentile by age. my Garmin Forerunner is scoring me a dissapointing 30 on the VO2max measure and says I am an “average” 50 percentile for men my age (75) and gives me a fitness age of 79. I’m thinking “why am I working so hard to get a fitness ages higher than 75?”

    Me I know my age are mostly obese and way out of shape…and not running 2or 3x per week + doing upper bidy workouts with a trainer another twice per week. VERY discouraged by my score.

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