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Cardio Fitness Levels Feature On Apple Watch – What Do They Mean? Why Do They Matter? How to Improve Them?

It almost feels like magic how your Apple Watch keeps track of so many health statistics. By just raising your wrist, you may gain access to a variety of fitness features that will help you stay healthy and keep track of what’s going on with your body, heart, and even oxygen levels in your blood.

The Apple Watch has a number of health-tracking functions, including the ability to measure a user’s Cardio Fitness, which is a lesser-known capability and is nearly invisible in your iPhone and Apple Watch, but it’s crucial. This feature should not be confused with the Apple Watch’s other heart health monitoring features, which include sending notifications when a user’s heart rate is abnormally high or low, as well as irregular rhythm notifications that potentially identify atrial fibrillation (Afib). 

It allows you to track the oxygen levels in your blood at a more detailed level, and it may even aid in the prevention of more serious diseases in the future.

However, it can be difficult to interpret what you’re seeing on your screen. So, whether you’ve never heard of Cardio Fitness levels before or want to learn how to increase your VO2 Max, here’s all you need to know.

What Is Cardio Fitness?

As previously mentioned, your cardio fitness levels aid in determining the amount of VO2 Max in your body. (This is essentially the amount of oxygen your body can consume while exercising.)

Your cardio fitness levels are a good indicator of how well your body is performing, and they can also assist forecast your long-term health.
This assessment is based on how hard your heart works during specified exercises, such as an outside walk or run.

Why Your Cardio Fitness Matters

Apple’s latest update uses VO2 max ratings to display a user’s aerobic fitness levels.

Apple watch displaying cardio fitness level

Cardio fitness is a good predictor of how healthy you are physically. Physical activity helps you maintain or enhance your cardiac fitness.

A decrease in physical activity, on the other hand, is associated with a decline in overall cardiac fitness.

What Is VO2 Max And Why Does It Matter?

The most significant component in evaluating your cardiac fitness levels is your VO2 Max, but what exactly does it mean? The “V” stands for volume, which is the amount of air that your body can use. People who paid attention in school most likely already knew that “O2” stands for oxygen. Max, on the other hand, is a maximum. So, VO2 Max essentially means “maximum volume of oxygen” that your body can use when working out. Isn’t that simple?

As previously said, VO2 Max can assist in predicting your general health in the future. Furthermore, if you enjoy pushing your body to its limits, this test will aid you in determining how much faster you can run or how long you can walk or hike without overexerting yourself—at least in terms of your oxygen capacity.

How To Use The iPhone And Apple Watch To Set Up Cardio Fitness Levels

To begin, you’ll require the appropriate tools. Make sure you have a Series 3 or later Apple Watch. The Apple Watch SE is among them.

By default, your Apple Watch and iPhone should measure your cardio fitness levels, but here’s how to double-check.

Users must update their Apple Watch (Series 3 or higher) to the current version of watchOS and their iPhone to the newest version of iOS in order to set up Cardio Fitness and enable notifications. Open the Health app on your iPhone and tap the Browse tab at the bottom. After that, tap on Heart, then Cardio Fitness. To confirm health details such as age, sex, height, weight, and medications that can potentially alter heart rate, tap Set Up and Next. To learn about variables that can lower Cardio Fitness scores, such as age, pregnancy, and some lung and heart problems, tap Next once more. To receive notifications when detected Cardio Fitness levels are low, tap on Turn On Notifications. Users must be at least 20 years old to use this feature, according to Apple. To finish the setup, tap Done. If the Apple Watch detects low Cardio Fitness levels, it will now send a notification to the user. Additional notices will be sent every four months if the levels remain low.

That’s all there is to it. Your Apple Watch will begin to track your cardiac fitness levels, and all that’s left is for you to figure out how to access the information.

How to View Your Cardio Fitness Data

Now comes the exciting part. If you want to know what your cardio fitness levels are like, you’ll need to use the Health app, which is simple to do if you follow these instructions:

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone
  2. Tap on Browse
  3. Tap Heart
  4. Select Cardio Fitness

You’ll be able to access all of the information gathered about you by your Apple Watch and iPhone. You may choose whether to view your cardio fitness levels by day, week, month, or year, and you can also tap Show All Cardio Fitness Levels for more information. There’s also an “I” indicator at the top that shows the average cardio fitness levels for women, men, and everyone else of all ages.

What’s The Significance Of The Numbers?

It’s great to know your cardio fitness levels, but what does it all mean? Understanding what you’re seeing on your iPhone can be difficult, but it’s easier than you think. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s going on.

First, your Apple Watch calculates your cardio fitness levels using the following information:

  1. Age
  2. Sex
  3. Weight
  4. Height
  5. Medications that might affect your heart rate

Based on this information, your iPhone will provide a more accurate result. The numbers on the chart at the top show your body’s VO2 Max levels. Also known as the maximum amount of oxygen your body can take in throughout an exercise. You may examine the typical cardio fitness levels for people your age by tapping the I icon at the top of the Health app. The older you are, the lower the number can be, thus this will help you figure out if you’re on the correct track. In general, the larger the number, the better.

Apple watch displaying body's VO2 max

This number will primarily be based on your gender and age, but keep in mind that the numbers may differ if you’re pregnant or taking a medicine that influences your heart rate. Overall, if you want to know why your results are inaccurate for someone with your current condition, you should consult your doctor.

How Can You Raise Your VO2 Max Levels?

Low VO2 Max levels aren’t ideal, and they can lead to a variety of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, in the future. As a result, it’s critical to keep them as high as possible for as long as feasible.

As previously said, your VO2 Max levels will decline as you get older, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to improve them.

To begin, you should seek professional assistance. Your health practitioner can offer you more accurate and useful information depending on your present circumstances, which neither your Apple Watch nor we can do.

As a result, you can try to do workouts that will assist your heart pump faster. Running, hiking, and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) are examples of these workouts. You may check our article for an in-depth view of volume and rep range for muscle size and strength.

Of course, there are other activities you can attempt, but for the best health advice, speaking with a specialist should always be your first choice.


Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant. He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves. Rahul has a master's degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.

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