Increased exercise SaO2 independent of ventilatory acclimatization at 4,300 m

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1989 Jun;66(6):2733-8. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1989.66.6.2733.


Arterial O2 saturation (Sao2) decreases in hypoxia in the transition from rest to moderate exercise, but it is unknown whether other several weeks at high altitude SaO2 in submaximal exercise follows the same time course and pattern as that of ventilatory acclimatization in resting subjects. Ventilatory acclimatization is essentially complete after approximately 1 wk at 4,300 m, such that improvement in submaximal exercise SaO2 would then require other mechanisms. On days 2, 8, and 22 on Pikes Peak (4,300 m), 6 male subjects performed prolonged steady-state cycle exercise at 79% maximal O2 uptake (VO2 max). Resting SaO2 rose from day 1 (78.4 +/- 1.6%) to day 8 (87.5 +/- 1.4%) and then did not increase further by day 20 (86.4 +/- 0.6%). During exercise, SaO2 values (mean of 5-, 15-, and 30-min measurements) were 72.7% (day 2), 78.6% (day 8), and 82.3% (day 22), meaning that all of the increase in resting SaO2 occurred from day 1 to day 8, but exercise SaO2 increased from day 2 to day 8 (5.9%) and then increased further from day 8 to day 22 (3.7%). On day 22, the exercise SaO2 was higher than on day 8 despite an unchanged ventilation and O2 consumption. The increased exercise SaO2 was accompanied by decreased CO2 production. The mechanisms responsible for the increased exercise SaO2 require further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / blood*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange*


  • Oxygen