Over 60 years ago, Robinson published the first investigation of boys’ aerobic fitness; almost 50 years ago, Åstrand conducted his pioneering studies of both sexes. Twenty four percent of the papers published during the first 10 years of Pediatric Exercise Science (1989-98) involved the determination of peak V̇O2. Yet, the interpretation of aerobic fitness during childhood and adolescence is still shrouded with controversy. In this paper we review peak V̇O2 in relation to age, growth, maturation, and sex. We describe the increase in peak V̇O2 with age, challenge the traditional interpretation of peak V̇O2 during growth, demonstrate the independent contribution of maturation to peak V̇O2, and address the progressive divergence of boys’ and girls’ peak V̇O2, during childhood and adolescence.
The authors are with the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK.