Reduced performance of male and female athletes at 580 m altitude

Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997;75(2):136-43. doi: 10.1007/s004210050138.


This study examined the effect of mild hypobaria (MH) on the peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak) and performance of ten trained male athletes [x (SEM); VO2peak = 72.4 (2.2) ml x kg(-1) x min(-1)] and ten trained female athletes [VO2peak = 60.8 (2.1) ml x kg(-1) x min(-1)]. Subjects performed 5-min maximal work tests on a cycle ergometer within a hypobaric chamber at both normobaria (N, 99.33 kPa) and at MH (92.66 kPa), using a counter-balanced design. MH was equivalent to 580 m altitude. VO2peak at MH decreased significantly compared with N in both men [-5.9 (0.9)%] and women [-3.7 (1.0)%]. Performance (total kJ) at MH was also reduced significantly in men [-3.6 (0.8)%] and women [-3.8 (1.2)%]. Arterial oxyhaemoglobin saturation (SaO2) at VO2peak was significantly lower at MH compared with N in both men [90.1 (0.6)% versus 92.0 (0.6)%] and women [89.7 (3.1)% versus 92.1 (3.0)%]. While SaO2 at VO2peak was not different between men and women, it was concluded that relative, rather than absolute. VO2peak may be a more appropriate predictor of exercise-induced hypoxaemia. For men and women, it was calculated that 67-76% of the decrease in VO2peak could be accounted for by a decrease in O2 delivery, which indicates that reduced O2 tension at mild altitude (580 m) leads to impairment of exercise performance in a maximal work bout lasting approximately 5 min.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Altitude*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*