Both fitness professionals and enthusiasts have long been interested in how personal characteristics influence the body’s response to exercise, and it is important for fitness professionals to understand how the characteristics of the exerciser can affect the magnitude of the exercise response.

An exercise response is the pattern of change in physiological variables during a single acute bout of physical exertion.  The basic pattern of the response is similar, but the magnitude of the response may vary with the individual’s sex, age, and/or their physiological status, such as health and training level.  Fitness professionals should understand the relationships between these variables in order to recognise normal and abnormal responses to exercise and respond accordingly.

A physiological variable is any measurable bodily function that changes or varies under different circumstances (Plowman & Smith, 2011).  For example, using the heart rate, we know this will increase during exercise.  However, simply stating that your heart rate will increase during exercise does not describe the full pattern of the response; think 400-m sprint versus 50-mile bike ride.

To fully understand the response of the heart rate, or any other variable, more information is needed about the exercise itself and three factors (described earlier) are considered when determining the acute response to exercise:

  1. The exercise modality (or mode);
  2. The exercise intensity; and
  3. The exercise duration.

From a simplistic viewpoint, the factors that can impact on the exercise response can also impact on the exerciser’s energy expenditure.


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


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