Cardiorespiratory fitness best describes the health and function of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. Cardiorespiratory fitness also describes the lungs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the blood, and to transport nutrients and waste products to and from active tissues in the body. Other terms used and applied to the exercise environment are cardiovascular fitness, aerobic endurance, and aerobic capacity. These terms are synonymous.

Cardiorespiratory exercise has been shown to have many benefits, such as the reduction of cardiovascular diseases by increasing the use of fats and, therefore, the reduction of obesity, and the reduction and control of hypertension and cholesterol. Other reported benefits include improved heart function and oxygen consumption, the ability to perform daily tasks more easily, decreased resting heart rate, body fat stores, anxiety and stress and control of diabetes.

A cardiorespiratory program must follow general guidelines to ensure maximum safety and efficacy. These characteristics are essential for measurable improvements. We call this the FITT principle.

Frequency 3-5 times per week

Intensity 60-90% of predicted FCM

Time Duration 15-60 minutes of aerobic exercise

Type of activities; walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, rollerblading, cross training, rowing, etc.

FREQUENCY of exercise refers to the number of exercise sessions per week that are performed. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends 3-5 sessions per week to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and to achieve or maintain optimal levels of body fat.

Exercise INTENSITY refers to the amount of effort you put into your training session. There are many methods for monitoring exercise intensity, some have been standardized and are suitable for use in the general population and for people with different levels of fitness.

Heart rate (MHR)

Rating of perceived exertion (RPE)

The ‘speech test’ method

Maximum heart rate (MHR) is determined by:

Men 220 – age

Women 226 – age

A 34-year-old man, therefore, would have an MHR of 186 beats per minute (bpm). The exercise intensity is then included in the equation to provide an exercise intensity that is specific to your experience, fitness level, capabilities, and relative to your fitness goals. Those just starting an exercise regimen or those who are low in fitness can benefit from intensities as low as 50-60% of the FCM. Higher intensities, up to 90% of the FCM, are better suited to those who are in better physical shape. As a general guideline, 60-80% of the FCM is sufficient for the average population with no contraindications to exercise.

RPE The ‘Rate of Perceived Exertion’ scale considers all factors that influence exercise intensity and how we perceive that exercise, including fatigue and environmental conditions. A twenty-point scale has been devised that corresponds to the intensities of the heart rate and allows the participant to determine their perceived exertion. This method teaches us to listen to our body rather than “tune out” and can be used in conjunction with heart rate.

The ‘Speech Test’ – This is an easy method that anyone can use. The conversation test is based on the principle that if you cannot carry on a regular conversation while exercising, your exercise intensity is too high. However, the intensity should be sufficient to increase core body temperature and promote perspiration.

Exercise TIME is the duration of the exercise and depends on the intensity of the session. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) suggests a minimum of 15 minutes of continuous exercise to elicit any improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness. More deconditioned individuals may require multiple shorter sessions until they develop a foundation from which improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness can be made.

Your abilities, interests, time available, equipment, facilities, and personal goals determine the TYPE of exercise. The options are endless and can include any movement that uses large muscle groups, is continuous in nature (for a minimum of 15 minutes), and uses the aerobic energy system.

When starting an exercise program, it is best to take a conservative approach and start with the suggested lows, that is, 3 times a week for 15-20 minutes at no more than 55-65% of the FCM.

This intensity should be increased gradually over the next several weeks and months to cause changes and improvements in cardiorespiratory capacity and endurance.

Fitcorp Asia’s healthcare professionals can design a specific program for your needs and goals, and help you reach your potential in health, mind and body.

Contact us at or for more information.

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