Aim: To compare a program based on intermittent hypoxia-hyperoxia training (IHHT) consisting of breathing hypoxic-hyperoxic gas mixtures while resting to a standard exercise-based rehabilitation program with respect to cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in older, comorbid cardiac outpatients.
Materials and methods: Thirty-two cardiac patients with comorbidities were randomly allocated to IHHT and control (CTRL) groups. IHHT completed a 5-week program of exposure to hypoxia-hyperoxia while resting, CTRL completed an 8-week tailored exercise program, and participants in the CTRL were also exposed to sham hypoxia exposure. CRF and relevant hematological biomarkers were measured at baseline and after treatment in both groups.
Results: After intervention, CRF in the IHHT group was not significantly different (n = 15, 19.9 ± 6.1 mlO2 minutes-1 kg-1) compared with the CTRL group (n = 14, 20.6 ± 4.9 mlO2 minutes-1 kg-1). CRF in IHHT increased significantly from baseline (6.05 ± 1.6 mlO2 minutes-1 kg-1), while no difference was found in CTRL. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures were not significantly different between groups after treatment. Hemoglobin content was not significantly different between groups. Erythrocytes and reticulocytes did not change pre/post interventions in both experimental groups.
Conclusions: IHHT is safe in patients with cardiac conditions and common comorbidities and it might be a suitable option for older patients who cannot exercise. A 5-week IHHT is as effective as an 8-week exercise program in improving CRF, without hematological changes. Further studies are needed to clarify the nonhematological adaptations to short, repeated exposure to normobaric hypoxia-hyperoxia.
Keywords: cardiorespiratory fitness; comorbid cardiac patients; normobaric hypoxia; simulated altitude.