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The Cardiorespiratory System

The ability to sustain physical activity is dependant to a large degree on the ability of the body to supply oxygen to the working muscles.

The cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) works in conjunction with the respiratory system (the lungs) and these are referred to collectively as one system, the cardiorespiratory system.

There are four components of the cardiorespiratory system:

  1. Lungs supply oxygen to the blood for transport around the body.
  2. Heart pumps blood around the body.
  3. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and carries carbon dioxide and other waste products away from the muscles.
  4. Blood vessels carry blood to and from muscles, organs, and tissues.

All parts of the body need to be supplied with oxygen and nutrients while at the same time waste products (eg carbon dioxide, heat and lactic acid) need to be removed via the blood stream. The cardiorespiratory system plays an essential role in this process.



The oxygen demands of the body must be met by the supply of oxygen from the cardiorespiratory system, so it is important that this system is trained and develops at the same rate as the muscular system.

Endurance fitness is significantly related to the rate of recovery between bouts of high intensity exercise.

As rugby involves bouts of high-intensity exercise, training the cardio-respiratory system is essential for rugby. Training of this system can be in a continual effort (endurance training) or in a series of efforts or activities (interval training). As little as 15-30 minutes three times a week can improve cardiorespiratory fitness initially. However, the amount of training should increase as the player gets fitter.