Benefits of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Training

Updated: Dec 5, 2020


Hey Readers! I am so glad you are here. In addition to practicing yoga regularly, I have been a runner for most of my life. I ran track for several years as a kid, and then I spent most of my 20's traveling the country to run various half marathons and one full marathon. I also hike, stand up paddleboard, and practice Pure Barre in addition to my regular yoga practice. Thus, I obviously think cardiorespiratory training is super important. In this blog post I will explain what cardiorespiratory training is, why it is so important for your overall health and wellness, and different ways to train your cardiorespiratory system.


What is Cardiorespiratory Fitness Training?

The cardiorespiratory system includes the cardiovascular system (i.e. heart, blood vessels) and the respiratory system (i.e. trachea, lungs, alveoli). Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to how well your cardiovascular and respiratory systems supply oxygen-rich blood to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity. Cardiorespiratory fitness training involves exercises and activities that specifically stress the cardiorespiratory system - that is, exercises that increase your heart and respiratory rate. Sometimes cardiorespiratory training is called "aerobic exercise," or more simply "cardio."

When engaging in cardiorespiratory training, the goal is to keep your heart rate (HR) elevated for a sustained period of time. The amount of time that you engage in cardiorespiratory training depends on your fitness level, experience with exercise, schedule, age, and preference. The recommended guidelines for cardiorespiratory training is at least 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on at least 5 days per week, which averages to about 30 minutes per day. These 30 minutes can be completed at one time if your fitness and schedule allow, or you can break up the 30 minutes into shorter bouts of exercise (e.g. 10 minutes) repeated throughout the day. And of course, you can always engage in cardiorespiratory activities for longer than 30-minute bouts, if that works better for your body.


In addition to this 30-minute minimum, you should also include a short warm-up (typically 5-10 minutes) prior to your actual cardiorespiratory workout in order to prep your tissues, heart, and lungs for the exercise that is to come. You also should include a short cool-down at the end of your cardiorespiratory training in order to allow your heart and respiratory rate to decline safely and to allow activity in your sympathetic nervous system to decrease (click here for more information on the sympathetic nervous system).

The HR requirement during cardiorespiratory training completely depends on your fitness level, age, and experience with exercise. Typically, when performing cardiorespiratory training, you would elevate your HR to some percentage of your maximum HR (HRmax). Ideally, you would be assessed from a certified personal trainer, and he/she would tell you your HRmax and what HR zone is safe for you to work in. But, if you are curious, a simple way to estimate your HRmax is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 37 years old, your estimated HRmax would be 183 (220 - 37).


A general rule of thumb in the fitness world is that those with lower fitness levels should exercise with a HR somewhere between 65-75% of their HRmax (sometimes referred to as "zone 1"). Someone with more fitness experience may be able to exercise with a HR somewhere between 76-85% of their HRmax ("zone 2") . And individuals with high fitness levels (e.g. athletes) may be able to exercise with a HR somewhere between 86-95% of their HRmax ("zone 3"). If you are performing cardiorespiratory training in zones 2 and/or 3, it is a wise idea to regularly cycle back to zone 1 training on other days to give your cardiorespiratory system a chance to recover. Also, depending on your fitness level, you can alternate between zones 1, 2, and 3 in a single workout session (sometimes called "interval training"), which is highly effective for training your heart AND assisting with weight loss.


Health Benefits of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Training

The benefits of cardiorespiratory training are numerous. Engaging in regular, sustained cardiorespiratory activity over the lifespan is one of the most reliable predictors of death and disability. Indeed, research has shown that a person's cardiorespiratory fitness level is one of the strongest predictors of morbidity and mortality. Benefits of cardiorespiratory exercise include:

  • Improved ability to engage in activities of daily living (ADLs)

  • Improved ability to pump blood with each heart beat

  • Reduced risk of heart disease

  • Lower resting HR and lower HR at any given level of work

  • More efficient breathing

  • Stronger respiratory muscles

  • Thicker cartilage and bones with weight-bearing aerobic exercises

  • Improved oxygen transport

  • Reduced cholesterol levels

  • Reduced blood pressure

  • Improved metabolism of fats and carbohydrates

  • Improvement in mental alertness

  • Reduced tendency for depression and anxiety

  • Improved ability to relax and sleep

  • Improved tolerance to stress

  • Increase in lean body mass (muscle)

  • Reduced risk of obesity and type II diabetes


Examples of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Training Exercises

There are many ways in which to complete the recommended amount of cardiorespiratory fitness training. Some examples of cardiorespiratory training activities include:

  • Running/jogging

  • Brisk walking

  • Hiking

  • Kayaking

  • Stand Up Paddleboarding

  • Ladder drills (consists of various speed, agility, and quickness drills performed with an athletic ladder - stay tuned for a future blog post that will go over these more in depth)

  • Plyometric exercises (consists of exercises that involve different types of jumping or hopping, such as jumping rope or squat jumps)

  • Swimming

  • Cycling

  • Circuit training (consists of a series of exercises that an individual performs one after the other, with minimal rest between each exercise)

  • Treadmill

  • Elliptical trainer

  • Certain group fitness classes (e.g. Spin, Barre, etc.)

  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)


Summary

Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to how efficiently your heart, blood, and lungs can supply oxygen-rich blood to your working skeletal muscles. Cardiorespiratory training involves activities that keep your HR elevated for a sustained period of time. Depending on your age and level of fitness, you should elevate your resting HR to some percentage of your HRmax. There are many benefits to your overall health and wellness from engaging in regular cardiorespiratory activity. And, there are so many different types of cardiorespiratory activities, including, running, brisk walking, hiking, circuit training, and more. Cardiorespiratory training is a wonderful addition to your current integrated training routine (e.g. yoga, resistance training, etc.).


If you are interested in beginning a cardiorespiratory routine, I highly recommend that you seek the advice of your physician, physical therapist, and/or certified personal trainer. If you have specific questions about your cardiorespiratory practice, please consult with your physician, physical therapist, or certified personal therapist.


If you are interested in private yoga sessions with me, Jackie, you can book services on my website ("Book Online" from the menu at the top of the page), or you can email me at info@lotusyogisbyjackie.com for more information about my services. Also, please subscribe to my website so you can receive my weekly newsletters (scroll to the bottom of the page where you can submit your email address). This will help keep you "in-the-know" about my latest blog releases and other helpful yoga and wellness information. Thanks for reading!

~Namaste, Jackie Allen, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP, RYT-200, RCYT


References:

Clark, M.A. et al. (2018). NASM Essential of Personal Fitness Training - Sixth Edition. Jones & Bartlett Learning. Burlington, MA.

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