Cardiorespiratory Performance (Human Biology III)

Learn cardio respiratory health and biology studying the heart and vascular biology. Gain better understanding for sports performance - for sports coaches or health professionals.

Course CodeBSC301
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Study Cardio respiratory Fitness and Health

  • Study the heart, lungs, blood and the circulatory system
  • Understand cardiorespiratory fitness, performance, and appropriate exercise to manage these aspects of the human condition
  • Learn human biology to advance your career opportunities

Cardiorespiratory Performance is an advanced biology course that requires students to have previous study in Anatomy and Physiology (BSC101 Human Biology 1A or equivalent).  The course focuses on the physiology of the blood, heart, vasculature, lungs and airways.  Students will gain insight into the vital processes that occur in the healthy cardiovasular and respiratory systems and the physiology, anatomy and biochemistry and basic physics driving these processes.  Comparison between the resting and active states, as well as the impact of medical conditions and other factors on cardiorespiratory performance is made, and students will discover and investigate the regulation of this vital multi-organ system. 

Topics include pulmonary ventilation, gas exchange, gas laws, blood physiology, haemoglobin, oxygen and carbon dioxide transport, cardiac output, electrocardiograms, oxygen utilisation and energy production, cardiac output, lung function and more.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. The Science of Blood
    • The Functions of Blood
    • Components of Blood
    • Blood Typing
    • Blood Cells
    • Hematopoiesis; Erythropoiesis, Leukopoiesis, Lymphopoiesis
    • Blood Cell function; Erythrocytes, Neutrophils, Eosinophils, Basophils, Thrombocytes
    • etc
    • The Immune Response
    • Haemostasis
    • Clotting Mechanism
    • Haemodynamics
    • Circulatory Networks
    • Blood Testing
    • Full Blood Count
    • Cross Matching
    • Blood Cultures
    • Arterial Blood Gas
    • Biochemical and Metabolic Tests
    • INR
    • Blood Disorders; Red & White Blood disorders, Blood Clotting, Poisoning
    • Lymphatic System
  2. Blood Pressure
    • Factors Affecting Blood Pressure; cardiac output, peripheral resistance, blood volume
    • How Blood Pressure is Measured
    • The Cardiac Cycle
    • Heart Muscle Cell Contraction
    • Electrical Control of the Heart Muscle Cells; Sinoatrial Node (SA Node), Atrioventricular Node (AV Node), Bundle of His (Atrioventricular bundle), Purkinje Fibres
    • Blood Pressure Problems
    • Systolic hypertension, Diastolic hypertension and Hypertension
    • Distribution of Blood Flow
    • Regulating Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
    • Sensors
    • Problems with Heart Rate; variations, and other conditions including Myocardial infarction and Cardiac Tamponade
    • Electrocardiograms and their Interpretation
  3. Pulmonary Ventilation
    • The Respiratory System
    • Respiratory Epithelium
    • The Lungs
    • Lung Anatomy
    • Alveoli
    • Airway Anatomy
    • Nasal and oral cavities
    • Pharynx
    • Epiglottis
    • Larynx
    • Trachea
    • Bronchi and bronchioles
    • Physiology of Breathing; Equilibrium, Pressure, Inspiration, Expiration
    • Physiological Measures of Lung Capacity and Function; Total Lung Capacity, Tidal Volume, Vital Capacity, Forced Vital Capacity, IRV, ERV, Functional Residual Capacity, MV, VO2 Max, etc
    • Effect of Exercise on Pulmonary Ventilation
  4. Gas Exchange & Transport
    • Gas Exchange in the Human Body
    • External Respiration
    • Oxygen Transport
    • Internal Respiration
    • Haemoglobin
    • Carbon Dioxide Transport
    • Biochemistry of Gas Exchange; Boyle’s Law, Charles’ Law, Dalton’s Law, Henry’s Law, etc
    • Factors Affecting Gas Exchange; Partial pressure Gradients, Gas Solubility, Membrane thickness, etc
    • Compliance
    • Respiratory Control
  5. Blood Flow & Gas Transport
    • Blood Flow; Volume, Target
    • Gas Transport
    • Arterial-Alveolar Gradient
    • Oxygen Transport
    • Factors Effecting Oxygen Release by Haemoglobin
    • The Bohr-Haldane Effect
    • Cellular Respiration
    • Energy Production; anaerobic and aerobic
    • Blood Flow During Exercise and Rest
  6. Cardio Respiratory Control
    • Cardio Respiratory Control and the Nervous System
    • Input Sensors
    • The CV Centre
    • High Brain Centres
    • Baroreceptors and Chemoreceptors
    • The Respiratory Centre
    • Starling’s Law
    • Capillaries
    • The Control of Heart and Lungs During Exercise
  7. Cardio Respiratory Disease
    • Cardiac Diseases and Injuries
    • Chronic Heart Failure
    • Congestive Heart Failure
    • Myocardial Infarction and Ischemia
    • Cardiovascular Diseases
    • Coronary Heart Disease
    • Atherosclerosis
    • Aneurysm
    • Vasculitis
    • Venous thrombosis
    • Varicose veins
    • Causes of Cardiovascular Disease; lifestyle, diet, obesity, genetics, smoking, hypertension, etc
    • Respiratory Disease
    • Asthma
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
    • Emphysema
    • Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
    • Effects of Cardio Pulmonary Disease

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain how blood affects human health, including its nature, how it works and its significance.
  • Explain blood pressure and its relationship to health and fitness.
  • Explain the physiology of pulmonary ventilation.
  • Explain the physiology of gas exchange and transport.
  • Explain relationship between blood flow and gas transport in the body.
  • Explain the physiology of cardio-respiratory control.
  • Explain the physiology of cardio-respiratory disease.

How are your Heart and Lungs Controlled when you Exercise?

The beating of your heart and your breathing are, at rest, generally passive automatic events.  We don’t think about them and the information received by the CV and respiratory centres should indicate that blood pressure and blood chemistry are stable.  However, if we change our behaviour so that we are no longer at rest, the oxygen demands of our tissues increase.  How does this occur? 

The muscles need energy to contract.  At rest this is supplied adequately and aerobic respiration takes place.  When you start to exercise however, the oxygen supply is not sufficient for the muscles to make the extra energy they need.  They switch to anaerobic energy production to produce their energy.  This results in an increase in waste products from the energy production, namely lactate, CO2 and H+. 

The waste products enter the blood as they would normally when you are at rest.  However, there is much more of them and this alters the blood chemistry.  Changes in the blood chemistry are detected by the chemoreceptors which signal the CV and respiratory centres in the brain.  The sympathetic nervous system is now functioning, overriding the parasympathetic nervous system.  Signals are sent to the lungs and heart.  It is the change in blood chemistry that signals changes to the heart and lung activity, causing the following events to occur quite rapidly:

  • The heart receives directions via the nerves of the sympathetic nervous system, ordering an increase in the force of heart muscle contraction (which increases stroke volume) and an increase in the number of contractions occurring (which increases heart rate).  Together this increases the cardiac output to anything up to 3X the resting cardiac output.  The effect of this is to increase the blood flow.
  • To further increase the blood flow, the sympathetic nerves stimulate contraction of the peripheral veins.  This reduces the volume of the circulatory system, and results in increased blood flow back to the heart (increased venous return).  The effect of this is to move more waste CO2 back to the lungs to be removed by exhalation.  Increasing venous return increases stroke volume, further increasing cardiac output.
  • The sympathetic nerves also stimulate:  vasoconstriction to non-essential tissues, such as the gastrointestinal tract and vasodilation of the vessels supplying and removing wastes from the active muscle tissues.  This increases blood flow to areas of need, while decreasing flow to areas where additional oxygen is not required.  As you stop exercising, the amount of waste product being produced and the amount of anaerobic energy production occurring in the muscles is reduced.  This changes the blood chemistry again.  The chemoreceptors detect this change and signal the brains CV and respiratory centres.  This in turn begins to signal heart, lungs and blood vessels, reversing the changes put in place when you were exercising.  If you warm up and cool down, your blood chemistry will change gradually.  If you start and stop strenuous exercise suddenly, the changes in blood chemistry will also be sudden and sharp, putting stress on your body as it works to bring you cardiac output, blood flow and respiration back to normal. 
  • The sympathetic nerves stimulate the muscles that expand the rib cage and increase the volume of the lungs.  This reduces the pressure in the lungs, causing additional oxygen rich air to flow into them. 
  • As a result of increased blood pressure (due to the increased stroke volume) there is more pressure in the vessels of the pulmonary circulation.  This forces open the pulmonary capillary beds, increasing gas exchange.  Some parts of the pulmonary capillary beds are bypassed when we are at rest.


Learn What is the Circulatory System -and more!

The circulatory system functions in the delivery of oxygen, nutrient molecules, and hormones and the removal of carbon dioxide, ammonia and other metabolic wastes. Capillaries are the points of exchange between the blood and surrounding tissues. Materials cross in and out of the capillaries by passing through or between the cells that line the capillary.

In order to carry out these activities the blood must flow. Consider a stagnant lake, because it has no flow, or current, anything that is placed in the lake will stay in the lake. However, in a running river, the flow, or current will carry dissolved particles, and objects away from the place where they entered the river.

Blood flow can be considered in two ways:


The volume of blood flowing through a vessel, an organ, or the entire vascular system over a given time. Blood flow is equal to cardiac output. The body can control and change the amount of blood flowing through the blood vessels.


The body can also control and change where blood flow is directed. This allows prioritisation of nutrient supply and waste removal as well as immune cell delivery to specific locations.

There are two circuits to the circulatory system. The pulmonary circulation is the flow of blood between the heart and lungs and the systemic circulation is the flow of blood between the heart and the body.

Both of these systems need to be in good working condition for you to have a good cardio respiratory fitness. 


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