There is much discussion in the area of exercise physiology regarding dose-response relationships, of which much revolves around two particular questions:

  1. How much exercise/activity is enough? and
  2. What is the relationship between specific amounts of exercise/activity or physical fitness levels and the benefits achieved?

A dose-response relationship describes how a change in one variable is associated with a corresponding change in another variable (Plowman & Smith, 2011).

In our training context, the dose refers to the characteristics of the particular training programme, namely the type, intensity, frequency, duration, and/or volume of the exercise programme or physical activity undertaken by the individual or group.

The response refers to the changes that occur when a specific volume or dose of exercise/physical activity is performed.

Therefore, for physical activity and health, the dose-response describes health-related changes obtained for the particular level of physical activity performed.

However, whilst sports scientists agree that some physical activity (minimal dose) is better than no physical activity (nil dose), it is not yet clear at what point more exercise has no further beneficial effect (maximal dose).

An optimal dose (somewhere between the minimal and maximal doses) would provide the greatest health benefit for the least amount of time and effort (see vital statistics), with the least risk of injury (ACSM, 2006; Haskell, 2007).


Plowman, S.A. & Smith, D.L. (2011) Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance. 3rd ed. London: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) (2006) ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

Haskell, W.L. (2007) Dose-response Issues in Physical Activity, Fitness, and Health. In C. Bouchard, S.N. Blair, & W.L. Haskell (eds). Physical Activity and Health. Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics.


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