Ever heard the term "VO2" tossed around at the gym? You're not alone. This week, Shape sets out to answer your questions about VO2 max and what you can do to increase it.
Unless you're a pro athlete, "VO2 max" probably sounds like a formula you forgot from high school chemistry. Here's a cheat sheet: The number is the amount of oxygen your body can use during physical activity. The higher it is, the fitter you are — and the easier a longer workout will feel. These three tips will take yours up a notch.
1. Push harder. Intense exercise trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently. At least once a week, make your cardio a sprint-interval session: After a three-minute warmup, move as fast as you can for 60 seconds, recover at a slower pace for 60 seconds, and repeat for 16 to 20 minutes.
2. Take a supplement. Human growth hormone, a substance secreted by the pituitary gland, has been shown to improve everything from your skin to your metabolism. And it might help you go the distance, too: a clinical trial found that taking the supplement SeroVital-hgh ($99; serovital.com) daily for two weeks increased participants' VO2 max by six percent.
3. Strike a pose. Intervals are tops for boosting VO2 max, but practicing yoga six times a week for three months significantly increased exercisers' scores, according to a recent Indian study.