Aerobic Capacity

Health Related Component

This means that aerobic capacity is more important to the individual’s health than to their sporting or athletic ability. Health-related fitness components are directly related to good health and reduced risk of hypokinetic disease (a disease associated with lack of exercise).

What is Aerobic Capacity?

Aerobic capacity is the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to be utilised by the working muscle. Aerobic capacity is often regarded as the most important health related fitness component describing the ability of muscles to use oxygen for sustained exercise which often involves predominantly large muscle groups. Aerobic capacity is also known as aerobic fitness, aerobic power, cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance. Individuals with a high aerobic capacity are able to transport and use more oxygen than those with a lower level of aerobic capacity.

Factors That Affect Aerobic Capacity

Aerobic capacity is dependent on the ability of the body to take in oxygen, transport it and use it. Therefore the components of the cardiovascular system and respiratory system are important to aerobic capacity.


Aerobic capacity is influenced by:

  • Oxygen delivery to the muscles

  • The efficiency of the heart to pump blood

  • The efficiency of the lungs to take in air

  • Diffusion capacity at the alveoli

  • Ability to remove wastes such as CO2

  • VO2 max

  • LIP

  • Fibre type

  • Body size


Increased levels of aerobic capacity are associated with:

  • An efficient and strong heart

  • Healthy blood vessels that are elastic and free from obstructions

  • Blood that has adequate levels of haemoglobin to carry the oxygen

  • A fit respiratory system, including lungs and respiratory muscles

  • Muscle tissue that is capable of using the oxygen delivered to it.

Recognised Tests

Beep Test:

The aim of the beep test is to follow a progressively increasing pace over a 20 metre course for as long as possible. The subject runs between two parallel lines which are 20 metres apart. At each signal, the subject must have reached one of the 20 metre lines. Upon hearing the signal, they reverse direction by pivoting on the line and running to the other line in time for the next signal. If the subject cannot reach within two strides of the line twice in a row, they withdraw from the test.
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Coopers 12-minute Run:

This test requires the athlete to run as far as they can in 12 minutes. The further the athlete can run, the higher their level of cardiorespiratory endurance. This test should be completed on a 400m track that has been measured out in 20m intervals. The major disadvantage of this test is that it requires a performer to be able to hold their highest intensity for 12 minutes to increase the reliability of the test, which is very difficult for many performers of the test.
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Training Methods Used to Train Aerobic Capacity

Long interval training: Dominance of the aerobic energy system during alternating high-intensity work periods and rest. Long interval training involves athletes working at or slightly above their lactate inflection point, for durations exceeding 1 minute or when the work to rest ratio is is 1:1 or greater. Long interval training is beneficial in developing pacing and lactate tolerance.


Continuous training: Also known as long slow distance (LSD) training, involves performing of an activity non-stop for a period of time. To maximise benefits, continuous training is often associated with a heart rate range between 70-85% max HR for minimum of 20 minutes.


Fartlek training: ‘Speed play’ combines continuous running with random bursts of speed which, in turn, increases contribution of the anaerobic energy system. Hence fartlek training improves both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.


Circuit training: sequenced performance of exercises at different activity station. Circuit training has the capacity to improve multiple fitness components, and can be tailored to suit the specific needs of an athlete.


Sports or events that require an athlete to have a high competency in Aerobic Capacity:

  • 1500 metre swim,

  • Marathon

  • Triathlon

  • Road cycling for extended periods.

These activities rely on the aerobic energy system to resynthesise ATP.