The physiology of endurance sport: How athletes are examined during aerobic fitness to improve endurance

The physiology of endurance sport: How athletes are examined during aerobic fitness to improve endurance

Eric Munene 07:01 - 13.06.2024

This is how marathon runners can run continuously for hours with a lot more muscle training.

Aerobic fitness (cardiovascular endurance) is the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your muscles, which allows them to do work or engage in activity.

The lungs take in oxygen from the air we breathe where it gets perfused into the blood stream; the heart and blood vessels deliver it into the working muscles, and the skeletal muscles utilize that oxygen to execute muscular contractions and produce work.

Enough with the science. Endurance sport athletes need a higher supply of oxygen in their bodies, to be able to keep going for extended periods of time.

During aerobic fitness assessments runners are examined by performing an exercise at increased loads for 12 to 15 minutes. The runners breathe into a mouthpiece that collects information on the inspired and expired air.

The test start with an easy task that runs for 1-2 minutes after which the stress of the exercise is increased. The runner could be on an exercise bike for two minutes then the resistance is increased every two minutes until the 15 minutes are over.

Over this 15 minute period, there will come a time when the graph created by the mouthpiece device will make a plateau. This means the athlete has reached the maximum oxygen intake in 15 minutes.

The data is collected and calculated in hours to determine how much oxygen will be required in the athlete’s blood to be able to run a 2hr marathon or play a 120 minute game.

Another method of testing endurance in athletes is when they are examined doing exercises with weights resisting their body movements.

For example, an athlete can run on a treadmill with weight belts on their legs. The resistance will cause a high demand of oxygen in the skeletal muscles to create energy to allow movement.

The high demand for oxygen stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells whose work is to transport oxygen in the body.

With time and consistent training the readings of the athletes graph go higher and higher. More endurance training means more production of red blood cells which results in a higher oxygen supply in your system.