The interactions of intensity, frequency and duration of exercise training in altering cardiorespiratory fitness

Sports Med. 1986 Sep-Oct;3(5):346-56. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198603050-00004.


This review has grouped many studies on different populations with different protocols to show the interactive effects of intensity, frequency and duration of training as well as the effects of initial fitness levels and programme length on cardiorespiratory fitness as reflected by aerobic power (VO2max). Within each level of exercise duration, frequency, programme length or initial fitness level, the greatest improvements in aerobic power occur when the greatest challenge to aerobic power occurs i.e., when intensity is from 90 to 100% of VO2max. The pattern of improvement where different intensities are compared with different durations suggests that when exercise exceeds 35 minutes, a lower intensity of training results in the same effect as those achieved at higher intensities for shorter durations. Frequencies of as low as 2 per week can result in improvements in less fit subjects but when aerobic power exceeds 50 ml/kg/min, exercise frequency of at least 3 times per week is required. As the levels of initial fitness improve, the changes in aerobic power decreases regardless of the intensity, frequency or duration of exercise. Although these pooled data suggest that maximal gains in aerobic power are elicited with intensities between 90 to 100% VO2max, 4 times per week with exercise durations of 35 to 45 minutes, it is important to note that lower intensities still produce effective changes and reduce the risks of injury in non-athletic groups.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange*
  • Time Factors