Advances in new technologies associated with improvement of knowledge in medicine have promoted important development in therapeutic and preventive approaches in an attempt to diminish complications following cardiothoracic process involving ischemia/ reperfusion (IR). Nevertheless, postoperative pulmonary injuries remain high and are considered one of the most frequent complications after cardiothoracic surgery. Thus, new strategies with prophylactic actions are crucial in cardiovascular area in an attempt to reduce complications and to improve patient life. It is well documented that exercise training is a non-pharmacological tool to prevent and/or treat cardiovascular and endocrine-metabolic diseases. The aim of this review was to provide an update of several studies pulmonary IR process and its local and systemic complications and the role of inflammatory response. Furthermore, this review focused on the effects of exercise training on the pulmonary IR as an important strategy to diminish its complications. This review shows that few studies exist regarding the health-promoting physical exercise in cardiothoracic surgery and how important is necessary to increase studies in this area. Recently, studies from our laboratory showed beneficial effects of exercise training in experimental model of pulmonary IR. Collectively, data show that physical preconditioning for patients is very important approach to reduce postsurgical complications as well as diminish the time of hospitalization which includes a specialized personal trainer in the health team. Moreover, this preventive strategy might improve patient recovery and would lead to consuming less resources of the health care system. This review included experimental studies in English and Portuguese found in SciELO and MEDLINE (from 1987 to 2008) and also classics texts related to the title.