We show that the transitions which occur between close orders of synchronization in the cardiorespiratory system are mainly due to modulation of the cardiac and respiratory processes by low-frequency components. The experimental evidence is derived from recordings on healthy subjects at rest and during exercise. Exercise acts as a perturbation of the system that alters the mean cardiac and respiratory frequencies and changes the amount of their modulation by low-frequency oscillations. The conclusion is supported by numerical evidence based on a model of phase-coupled oscillators, with white noise and lowfrequency noise. Both the experimental and numerical approaches confirm that low-frequency oscillations play a significant role in the transitional behavior between close orders of synchronization.