Why we do these things

Why we do these things we do.

Why do we exercise? There are a lot of reasons. For each of us, they may not be the same. Exercising may by the result of an activity you participate in. If you train in a martial art in a group setting, you are probably going through an exercise routine at the beginning of the class. Also, doing pretty much any martial art is a workout in itself. Try doing any kata combatively, and you will see what I mean. Exercise can be a way to maintain your weight at a reasonable point. Perhaps you want to be able to carry out the normal every day activities without feeling tired, and out of breath.

Hopefully the reason most of you exercise is because it has become a part of your life, something that if you don’t do it, you feel like your day isn’t complete, you get somewhat moody. If you fall into this bucket, you should feel good about it. It means you have found something you love doing, and you have done it often enough that it is no less part of your day as eating, sleeping, reading is. It’s tough to get to this point, but when you do, it feels really good.

Whatever the reason, what I want to do is look at benefits exercising gives us, specifically cardio respiratory training.

What is it

What is cardio respiratory training? Let’s look at the definition. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is any activity that increases heart rate and respiration while using large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically.

It’s common that most people think of cardio training being running, biking, elliptical machine exercise (not sure what the verb for using an elliptical machine), or using any machine in the cardio section in the gym. Cardio training can be done so many ways. As I mentioned earlier above, when I do my kata, my heart rate and respiration increases substantially, and I’m using large muscle groups repetitively and rhythmically. The activity you do in resistance training can also act as your cardio training. Going through a body weight exercise program will definitely train your cardio system. Try doing a set of Burpees and not be breathing heavy.

This should open up the boundaries on what you think cardio training is, and provide you with more options to train your cardio system.

The cardio respiratory system brings oxygen into our body, and takes away the carbon dioxide, the waste from our body. The cardiovascular system, comprised of the heart, veins and arteries carry blood throughout our body, bringing nutrients to our muscles and tissue, and taking away waste products. Also, the circulatory system is involved in maintaining the core temperature of the body, transporting heat away from the core to the skin.

The respiratory system is made up of our lungs, and the air passageways. The respiratory system handles the exchange of gases between the blood and environment. This exchange is how oxygen is added to the blood, and the waste, carbon dioxide, is removed from the blood.

How we benefit

We know the benefits on how cardio training impact us day to day. But lets look at what exactly is going on, and why we get these benefits.

We can determine the benefits of training our cardio system using math. The average heart beats at 72 beats per minute when resting. When the heart beats, it forces blood into the arteries. This force of blood is what you feel when you are checking your pulse. As your activity increases, and the demand for oxygen increases, the heart must beat faster to meet this demand, providing more oxygen.

So we know the heart beating faster will provide more oxygen, but what else can influence this, providing the same level of oxygen, but at a lower heart rate.

This can be achieved by increasing the stroke volume. Stroke volume is the amount of blood the left ventricle pumps out in one beat. As you become fitter, the size of the ventricles increase, allowing them to hold more blood, and contract with a greater force. The result of this is an increase in your stroke volume. Therefore instead of one stroke pumping 70 milliliters of blood, due to your increase in fitness, your ventricles are now pumping 100 milliliters per stroke.

This is important to understand as it shows a huge benefit of exercising! Your heart is a muscle, constantly working, pumping blood day in and day out. If your heart is able to pump more blood per beat, it can pump at a lower rate and still provide the same amount of blood needed to meet the demands of our body. Here’s a simple example:



5,000 milliliters = 70 bpm x 71.4 milliliters (stroke volume)


5,000 milliliters = 50 bpm x 100 milliliters (stroke volume)

Notice the lower heart rate is delivering the same amount of blood (5,000 ml).



20,000 milliliters = 195 bpm x 102.6 milliliters (stroke volume)


35,000 milliliters = 195 bpm x 179.5 milliliters (stroke volume)


Do you see the second benefit? It may throw you off as the heart rate is the same for both people in the exercise example. That’s because both people are training at the same level of intensity. But, notice that the trained person is moving more blood, 35,000 milliliters instead of 20,000 milliliters. That’s 75% more! That’s huge!

What does it mean? It means the trained person is delivering more oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. In simple terms, at the intensity level where your heart rate is at 195 bpm, and you are running a sprint, you should be able to run it faster than if you were untrained. It makes sense, your muscles are receiving more oxygen, more nutrients and thus can perform better.

What else

Of course there are other benefits. I covered the benefit of having a lower resting heart rate. You will also benefit from a normalization of your resting blood pressure. I talked about why some of us exercise, to be able to carry out day to day tasks easier. This is another benefit.

To me, the last benefit is a big one, as it’s a great motivator. Being able to climb the stairs at work to get to the second or third floor and not be out of breath, where a month ago you would be breathing heavy is a great feeling. It’s a tangible result, and it makes us feel great.

What now

Having a better knowledge of our cardio respiratory system allows us to train smarter, and realize benefits from our training sooner. It should also help you understand what you can do to perform better at the activities you choose to do. Use this information to empower yourself, to become stronger, faster. Be the one who reaps the benefits, and a whole new set of goals will be yours to achieve.

Yours in health,


Author: darryl bennett

A certified Canfitpro personal trainer specialist, and a Yondan (4th Degree) black belt in Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan karate, training at Ferraro Karate under Sensei Stephen Ferraro. Also holding a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from ECornell University. Fitness and health have been a big part of my life, and always will be.

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