Reduced performance of male and female athletes at 580 m altitude

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This study examined the effect of mild hypobaria (MH) on the peak oxygen consumption ( O2peak) and performance of ten trained male athletes [ (SEM); O2peak = 72.4 (2.2) ml · kg−1 · min−1] and ten trained female athletes [ O2peak = 60.8 (2.1) ml · kg−1 · 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. O2peak 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 O2peak 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 O2peak was not different between men and women, it was concluded that relative, rather than absolute, O2peak may be a more appropriate predictor of exercise-induced hypoxaemia. For men and women, it was calculated that 67–76% of the decrease in O2peak 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 ≈ 5 min.

Accepted: 30 July 1996