Aerobic Respiration and the Heart Rate

The harder you work out, the heavier you breathe and the higher your heart rate rises. The purpose of this is to deliver more oxygen to your muscles.

If you have engaged in any form of exercise, you likely have experienced the link between aerobic respiration and heart rate. Your heart rate is the number of beats per minute, measured by your pulse. The harder you work, the heavier you breathe and the higher your heart rate rises. The purpose of this is to deliver more oxygen to and remove wastes more quickly from your hard-working muscles.

Aerobic Respiration

To fuel any activity, your body requires energy. Aerobic respiration at the cellular level occurs in the presence of oxygen. When you breathe, your body transports oxygen via red blood cells and oxygen-containing proteins to your cells.

Aerobic respiration is a chemical process that uses primarily carbohydrates and fats from the foods you eat to produce energy. Aerobic respiration produces energy slowly, but that energy lasts a long time.

Role of the Heart

The heart plays a vital role in aerobic respiration by distributing oxygen. The more intensely you work out, the harder your heart will work to distribute that oxygen, thus increasing the heart rate.

The body of a seasoned athlete is adapted to carry oxygen more efficiently, thus prolonging aerobic respiration. The oxygen-carrying capacity of one who works out regularly is greater than an infrequent exerciser.

Physiological Adaptations

Oxygen and sugar are limiting factors in aerobic respiration. When you work out regularly, the body adapts by increasing blood proteins and red blood cells. The cellular organelles responsible for energy production also increase.

Other changes include an increase in capillaries within your lungs, increasing the surface area of gas exchange. As your heart beats, blood is forced through your circulatory system to your muscles where aerobic respiration occurs.


Aerobic exercise benefits your cardiovascular, skeletal and respiratory systems by making them more efficient. To get the most out of aerobic respiration, you will need to exercise at a level that challenges your heart and muscles. A target of at least 50 percent of your maximum heart rate is recommended. You can find your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart by placing stress on it. The heart must adapt to the stress and become stronger. Regular aerobic exercise can decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Aerobic exercise also aids fat loss. The harder your heart and muscles work, the more energy is required. That energy comes from calories in the foods you eat. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 found that women could prevent weight gain if they engaged in moderately intensive activity about an hour daily most days of the week 2.


Aerobic activity is an essential component of a fitness program. You will lose fat or maintain a healthy body composition through activity that maximizes calorie burn. Because aerobic respiration is so efficient, you have the energy necessary to work out longer and harder. Your heart rate is a good way for you to gauge the intensity of your activity for maximum health benefits.