[Dominique Stasulli is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab]
Hypoxia refers to the reduced oxygen content of the air. The average person may wonder why exercising or even living under that kind of self-imposed stress would be desirable….but endurance athletes are a different breed. There is a widespread popularity for athletes looking to gain an edge in cardiovascular fitness to travel to places of higher altitude for training, some even relocating. It is not unknown that the world’s best East African runners live and train at altitudes of 1500 to 2000m. Much [DS1] of the literature up to this point has gone back and forth on whether or not training at altitude really enhances performance. The physiological adaptations occur at essentially four steps in the oxygen transport system starting with alveolar ventilation and moving down the chain through lung diffusion, circulatory oxygen transport, and ending with tissue oxygenation. Hypoxic environments can be both beneficial and detrimental on the body’s adaptive mechanisms, depending on the mode and duration of exposure. This article serves to weigh the risks versus the benefits when considering altitude training as a means of enhancing cardiovascular and all-around fitness.
The latest research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning from August 2014 examined an eight-week program of intermittent hypoxic training (IHT) at submaximal versus maximal workout intensities. The IHT scheme consisted of two, weekly 40-minute runs under normobaric hypoxia interspersed with normoxic (normal oxygen) training on the other days. The experimental hypothesis stated that IHT would elicit greater gains in both the submaximal and maximal categories, with a resulting enhancement of exercise tolerance when compared with the control group. The single-blind study results proved IHT to be effective in enhancing cardiovascular […]
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