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The Basics Of The Cardiovascular System

Updated on December 4, 2011

What is the Cardiovascular system?

Cardiovascular fitness sometimes called cardiorespiratory endurance, is a broad term to describe a unique form of muscular endurance. In addition, it basically describes the ability of how efficient the heart, lungs and vascular system can work to transport oxygen to working muscles. However, there are many factors which can affect our cardiovascular fitness, such as: activity levels, how well our cells can utilise oxygen, our stroke volume and our heart rate.

I will touch on that list later, for now let me explain the responsibilities of the heart, lungs and the vascular system.


Our heart is an exceptional organ. It is constantly in use in every moment in our lives, but you probably only recognise its value during exercise, this is because as our work intentisty increases so does our demand for oxygen.

The heart is the start of getting oxygen around the body - the vascular system works hand in hand with the heart to transport oxygen to where it's needed.

Vascular System

The Vascular system is made up of our blood vessels.

The heart pumps blood to our arteries, into our capileries, then back to our veins and this happens thousands of times a day - but this constant process is much more intense when we work our muscles.

Furthermore, what the vascular system really achieves is carrying oxygen to our muscles through our blood cells, the harder we're working the more oxygen we need, this is why we breathe heavier because the demand for oxygen increases.


Our lungs are the base camp for receiving then absorbing oxygen.

When you start working your muscles you will notice you will breathe heavier and deeper. The reason why you do that is because your muscles need oxygen to create energy because the food we consume is broken down into glucose for energy and without oxygen this cannot happen.

The harder you work, the more oxygen is needed to match the energy demands - so this means we must breathe faster aswell.

Aerobic Threshold

What can our bodies handle and where are our limits of intensity? Below I've added an excellent illustration. Here you can see measurements of both: heart rate in BPM (Beats per minute) and ages. At the top of the illustration you're seeing a predicted V02 Max. V02 max is the absolute maximum intentisy your heart, lungs and vascular system can work together before muscle fatigue sets. Whilst at the bottom moderate activity is considered a light workout.

What should I aim for?

To keep an active lifestyle you would want to be doing something that reaches the 'Weight Control' or 'Aerobic Fitness' level of intensity, and you'd want to stay at that intensity as long as you can during your entire workout. Of course though, you know your own body and for some people a power walk will be just as intense as someone running - so if you're new to training don't do to much to quick, aim for 20 minutes of your targetted area a few times a week and remember to warm up and cool down.

As your fitness levels improve, move the intensity higher and higher and longer and longer!

So you're probably wondering what the benefits of the cardiovascular system are...

The Benefits

There are numerous benefits if you regularly work your cardiovascular system, let me list just a few!

  • It strengthens the heart and lungs
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased Metabolism
  • Burns fat
  • Relieves stress, depression and anxiety
  • Prevents illness by improving your immune system
  • Sense of achievement

What type of exercise is appropriate?

Anything which gets you out of breath! It varies for different people judging on their current fitness and levels of activity. But why not try joining up to your local gym, most gyms offer treadmills, stationary bikes, cross-trainers, rowers and much more.

Not a fan of the gym? Perhaps you can do some exercise indoors, press-ups, sit-ups, step-ups, squats, star jumps - there really is a truely endless amount of activities which can get you out of breath!

Thinking about starting to train today? I have a Hub which is designed with beginners in mind to be able to run 5 kilometers in 9 weeks. Feel free to take a look and give it a try!


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    • Chris Achilleos profile image

      Chris Achilleos 5 years ago

      Great hub Sottway, Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      Excellent Jfrint I'm glad youve learned how the cardiovascular system works!

    • Jfrint profile image

      Jfrint 6 years ago

      I never knew how so much went into such a system. A good read Sottway.

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      @bolt1951 Thanks for such great feedback I appreciate it! And you are exactly right I should stick to what I'm doing and keep it that way.

      But to be fair the Hub was first called "Cardiovascular Fitness" which was pretty vague as CyclingFitness pointed out, after some help I've renamed it to its current title and plan to keep it that way.

      Also everyone else who's commented on here that's as far as I know them.

      Once again thanks for some great feedback

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      @KBEvolve, I'm glad you've learned alot throughout my hub! Thanks for visiting and commenting

    • profile image

      bolt1951 6 years ago

      Hello Scottway,

      KBEvolve is right, you are intelligent smart and informative. However the world is not for you to change your ways to their liking, Do things the way you want to do and understand that you can not ever satisfy everybody.

      If they dislike your title then they should move along to what ever suites their taste. like they say every opinions are like A holes everybody has one. and who is this guy anyway is he a friend of yours?

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 6 years ago from United States

      The title is fine. It inspired me to take a look, and I was amazed at the amount of detail and new information I found.

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      Thanks for the reply CyclingFitness. About the title once again, what do you reckon is appropriate? I'm wanting to keep it short and to the point, which has turned out with some vague titles at best unfortunately. I don't want my hub to be missed due to its title, and equally I don't want fellow Hubbers coming here to be mislead. Maybe I'll post for a bit of help on the forums.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      You're welcome Sottway- I've seen the new title however to be honest still don't think your title truely reflects what you've written about so will potentially mislead a reader

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      I appreciate the comment CyclingFitness thanks for the read but more thanks for spotting the title. I will re-title this hub to something more appropriate.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I'd have liked to have seen a much more specific title to entice a viewer- 'cardiovascular fitness' is far too vague and the hub goes more into the workings of the cardiovascular system before giving a short recommendation. You could write an encyclopaedia on cardiovascular fitness and all of the aspects for it so more specificity would help the reader.