Responses to exercise in normobaric hypoxia: comparison of elite and recreational ski mountaineers

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2014 Nov;9(6):978-84. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2013-0524. Epub 2014 Mar 19.

Abstract

Purpose: Hypoxia is known to reduce maximal oxygen uptake (VO(2max)) more in trained than in untrained subjects in several lowland sports. Ski mountaineering is practiced mainly at altitude, so elite ski mountaineers spend significantly longer training duration at altitude than their lower-level counterparts. Since acclimatization in hypobaric hypoxia is effective, the authors hypothesized that elite ski mountaineers would exhibit a VO2max decrement in hypoxia similar to that of recreational ski mountaineers.

Methods: Eleven elite (E, Swiss national team) and 12 recreational (R) ski mountaineers completed an incremental treadmill test to exhaustion in normobaric hypoxia (H, 3000 m, F(1)O(2) 14.6% ± 0.1%) and in normoxia (N, 485 m, F(1)O(2) 20.9% ± 0.0%). Pulse oxygen saturation in blood (SpO(2)), VO(2max), minute ventilation, and heart rate were recorded.

Results: At rest, hypoxic ventilatory response was higher (P < .05) in E than in R (1.4 ± 1.9 vs 0.3 ± 0.6 L · min⁻¹ · kg⁻¹). At maximal intensity, SpO(2) was significantly lower (P < .01) in E than in R, both in N (91.1% ± 3.3% vs 94.3% ± 2.3%) and in H (76.4% ± 5.4% vs 82.3% ± 3.5%). In both groups, SpO(2) was lower (P < .01) in H. Between N and H, VO(2max) decreased to a greater extent (P < .05) in E than in R (-18% and -12%, P < .01). In E only, the VO(2max) decrement was significantly correlated with the SpO(2) decrement (r = .74, P < .01) but also with VO(2max) measured in N (r = .64, P < .05).

Conclusion: Despite a probable better acclimatization to altitude, VO(2max) was more reduced in E than in R ski mountaineers, confirming previous results observed in lowlander E athletes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mountaineering / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Respiration
  • Skiing / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Oxygen