The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of changing a laboratory physiology course for undergraduate students from a traditional step-by-step guided structure to an inquiry-based approach. With this aim in mind, quantitative and qualitative evaluations of learning outcomes (individual subject-specific tests and group interviews) were performed for a laboratory course in cardiorespiratory exercise physiology that was conducted in one year with a traditional step-by-step guided manual (traditional course) and the next year completed with an inquiry-based structure (I-based course). The I-based course was a guided inquiry course where students had to design the experimental protocol and conduct their own study on the basis of certain predefined criteria (i.e., they should evaluate respiratory responses to submaximal and maximal exercise and provide indirect and direct measures of aerobic exercise capacity). The results indicated that the overall time spent on the experimental course as well as self-evaluated learning outcomes were similar across groups. However, students in the I-based course used more time in preparation (102 ± 5 min) than students in the traditional course (42 ± 3 min, P <0.05), and 65 ± 5% students in the I-based course searched for additional literature before experimentation compared with only 2 ± 1% students in the traditional course. Furthermore, students in the I-based course achieved a higher (P <0.05) average score on the quantitative test (45 ± 3%) compared with students in the traditional course (31 ± 4%). Although students were unfamiliar with cardiorespiratory exercise physiology and the experimental methods before the course, it appears that an inquiry-based approach rather than one that provides students with step-by-step instructions may benefit learning outcomes in a laboratory physiology course.