The effect of exercise-induced hypoxemia on blood redox status in well-trained rowers

  • 457 Accesses

  • 8 Citations


Exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia (EIAH), characterized by decline in arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation (SaO2), is a common phenomenon in endurance athletes. Acute intensive exercise is associated with the generation of reactive species that may result in redox status disturbances and oxidation of cell macromolecules. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether EIAH augments oxidative stress as determined in blood plasma and erythrocytes in well-trained male rowers after a 2,000-m rowing ergometer race. Initially, athletes were assigned into either the normoxemic (n = 9, SaO2 >92%, \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{max}}}} \): 62.0 ± 1.9 ml kg−1 min−1) or hypoxemic (n = 12, SaO2 <92%, \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{max}}}} \): 60.5 ± 2.2 ml kg−1 min−1, mean ± SEM) group, following an incremental \( \dot{V}{\text{O}}_{{ 2 {\text{max}}}} \) test on a wind resistance braked rowing ergometer. On a separate day the rowers performed a 2,000-m all-out effort on the same rowing ergometer. Following an overnight fast, blood samples were drawn from an antecubital vein before and immediately after the termination of the 2,000-m all-out effort and analyzed for selective oxidative stress markers. In both the normoxemic (SaO2: 94.1 ± 0.9%) and hypoxemic (SaO2: 88.6 ± 2.4%) rowers similar and significant exercise increase in serum thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances, protein carbonyls, catalase and total antioxidant capacity concentration were observed post-2,000 m all-out effort. Exercise significantly increased the oxidized glutathione concentration and decreased the ratio of reduced (GSH)-to-oxidized (GSSG) glutathione in the normoxemic group only, whereas the reduced form of glutathione remained unaffected in either groups. The increased oxidation of GSH to GSSG in erythrocytes of normoxemic individuals suggest that erythrocyte redox status may be affected by the oxygen saturation degree of hemoglobin. Our findings indicate that exercise-induced hypoxemia did not further affect the increased blood oxidative damage of lipids and proteins observed after a 2,000-m rowing ergometer race in highly-trained male rowers. The present data do not support any potential link between exercise-induced hypoxemia, oxidative stress increase and exercise performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 199

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4


  1. Aebi H (1984) Catalase in vitro. Methods Enzymol 105:121–126

  2. American College of Sports Medicine (2000) ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 6th edn. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia 117

  3. Bailey DM, Davies B, Young IS (2001) Intermittent hypoxic training: implications for lipid peroxidation induced by acute normoxic exercise in active men. Clin Sci 101:465–475

  4. Baker JE, Felix CC, Olinger GN, Kalyanaraman B (1988) Myocardial ischemia and reperfusion: direct evidence for free radical generation by electron spin resonance spectroscopy. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 85:2786–2789

  5. Bassett DR Jr, Howley ET (2000) Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32:70–84

  6. Bloomer RJ (2008) Effect of exercise on oxidative stress biomarkers. Adv Clin Chem 46:1–50

  7. Bloomer RJ, Fry AC, Falvo MJ, Moore CA (2007) Protein carbonyls are acutely elevated following single set anaerobic exercise in resistance trained men. J Sci Med Sport 10:411–417

  8. Bloomer RJ, Smith WA, Fisher-Wellman KH (2010) Oxidative stress in response to forearm ischemia-reperfusion with and without carnitine administration. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 80:12–23

  9. Dempsey JA, Wagner PD (1999) Exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia. J Appl Physiol 87:1997–2006

  10. Dempsey J, Hanson P, Henderson K (1984) Exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia in healthy persons at sea level. J Physiol 355:161–175

  11. Dempsey JA, McKenzie DC, Haverkamp HC, Eldridge MW (2008) Update in the understanding of respiratory limitations to exercise performance in fit, active adults. Chest 134:613–622

  12. Dill DB, Costill DL (1974) Calculation of percentage changes in volumes of blood, plasma and red cells in dehydration. J Appl Physiol 37:247–248

  13. Dousset E, Steinberg JG, Faucher M, Jammes Y (2002) Acute hypoxemia does not increase the oxidative stress in resting and contracting muscle in humans. Free Radic Res 36:701–704

  14. Durand F, Mucci P, Prefaut C (2000) Evidence for an inadequate hyperventilation inducing arterial hypoxemia at submaximal exercise in all highly trained endurance athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32:926–932

  15. Fisher G, Schwartz DD, Quindry J, Barberio MD, Foster EB, Jones KW, Pascoe DD (2011) Lymphocyte enzymatic antioxidant responses to oxidative stress following high-intensity interval exercise. J Appl Physiol 110:730–737

  16. Fisher-Wellman K, Bloomer RJ (2009) Acute exercise, oxidative stress: a 30 year history. Dyn Med 8:1–25

  17. Guenette JA, Sheel AW (2007) Exercise-induced arterial hypoxaemia in active young women. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 32:1263–1273

  18. Hagerman FC (1984) Applied physiology of rowing. Sports Med 1:303–326

  19. Hagerman FC, Fielding RA, Fiatarone MA, Gault JA, Kirkendall DT, Ragg KE, Evans WJ (1996) A 20-yr longitudinal study of Olympic oarsmen. Med Sci Sports Exerc 28:1150–1156

  20. Halliwell B, Gutteridge J (2007) Free radicals in biology and medicine, 4th edn. Oxford University Press, New York, NY

  21. Hanel B, Clifford PS, Secher NH (1994) Restricted postexercise pulmonary diffusion capacity does not impair maximal transport for O2. J Appl Physiol 77:2408–2412

  22. Harms CA, McClaran SR, Nickele GA, Pegelow DF, Nelson WB, Dempsey JA (2000) Effect of exercise-induced arterial O2 desaturation on VO2max in women. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32:1101–1108

  23. Hopkins SR, McKenzie DC (1989) Hypoxic ventilatory response and arterial desaturation during heavy work. J Appl Physiol 67:1119–1124

  24. Janaszewska A, Bartosz G (2002) Assay of total antioxidant capacity: comparison of four methods as applied to human blood plasma. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 62:231–236

  25. Joanny P, Steinberg J, Robach P, Richalet JP, Gortan C, Gardette B, Jammes Y (2001) Operation Everest III (Comex’97): the effect of simulated sever hypobaric hypoxia on lipid peroxidation and antioxidant defence systems in human blood at rest and after maximal exercise. Resuscitation 49:307–314

  26. Jones CM, Lawrence A, Wardman P, Burkitt MJ (2003) Kinetics of superoxide scavenging by glutathione: an evaluation of its role in the removal of mitochondrial superoxide. Biochem Soc Trans 31:1337–1339

  27. Keles MS, Taysi S, Sen N, Aksoy H, Akcay F (2001) Effect of corticosteroid therapy on serum and CSF malondialdehyde and antioxidant proteins in multiple sclerosis. Can J Neurol Sci 28:141–143

  28. Kerksick C, Willoughby D (2005) The antioxidant role of glutathione and N-acetyl-cysteine supplements and exercise-induced oxidative stress. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2:38–44

  29. Koskolou MD, McKenzie DC (1994) Arterial hypoxemia and performance during intense exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 68:80–86

  30. Kyparos A, Vrabas IS, Nikolaidis MG, Riganas CS, Kouretas D (2009) Increased oxidative stress blood markers in well-trained rowers following two thousand-meter rowing ergometer race. J Strength Cond Res 23:1418–1426

  31. Legrand R, Ahmaidi S, Moalla W, Chocquet D, Marles A, Prieur F, Mucci P (2005) O2 arterial desaturation in endurance athletes increases muscle deoxygenation. Med Sci Sports Exerc 37:782–788

  32. Margonis K, Fatouros IG, Jamurtas AZ, Nikolaidis MG, Douroudos I, Chatzinikolaou A, Mitrakou A, Mastorakos G, Papassotiriou I, Taxildaris K, Kouretas D (2007) Oxidative stress biomarkers responses to physical overtraining: implications for diagnosis. Free Radic Biol Med 43:901–910

  33. McBride JM, Kraemer WJ, Triplett-McBride T, Sebastianelli W (1998) Effect of resistance exercise on free radical production. Med Sci Sports Exerc 30:67–72

  34. Michailidis Y, Jamurtas AZ, Nikolaidis MG, Fatouros IG, Koutedakis Y, Papassotiriou I, Kouretas D (2007) Sampling time is crucial for measurement of aerobic exercise-induced oxidative stress. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:1107–1113

  35. Mollard P, Bourdillon N, Letournel M, Herman H, Gibert S, Pichon A, Woorons X, Richalet JP (2010) Validity of arterialized earlobe blood gases at rest and exercise in normoxia and hypoxia. Respir Physiol Neurobiol 172:179–183

  36. Moller P, Loft S, Lundby C, Olsen NV (2001) Acute hypoxia and hypoxic exercise induce DNA strand breaks and oxidative DNA damage in humans. FASEB J 15:1181–1186

  37. Nielsen HB (2003) Arterial desaturation during exercise in man: implication for O2 uptake and work capacity. Scand J Med Sci Sports 13:339–358

  38. Nielsen HB, Madsen P, Svendsen LB, Roach RC, Secher NH (1998) The influence of PaO2, pH and SaO2 on maximal oxygen uptake. Acta Physiol Scand 164:87–89

  39. Nikolaidis MG, Jamurtas AZ (2009) Blood as a reactive species generator and redox status regulator during exercise. Arch Biochem Biophys 490:77–84

  40. Nikolaidis MG, Paschalis V, Giakas G, Fatouros IG, Koutedakis Y, Kouretas D, Jamurtas AZ (2007) Decreased blood oxidative stress after repeated muscle-damaging exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 39:1080–1089

  41. Nikolaidis MG, Jamurtas AZ, Paschalis V, Fatouros IG, Koutedakis Y, Kouretas D (2008) The effect of muscle-damaging exercise on blood and skeletal muscle oxidative stress: magnitude and time-course considerations. Sports Med 38:579–606

  42. Nikolaidis MG, Kyparos A, Vrabas IS (2011) F(2)-isoprostane formation, measurement and interpretation: The role of exercise. Prog Lipid Res 50:89–103

  43. Patsoukis N, Zervoudakis G, Panagopoulos NT, Georgiou CD, Angelatou F, Matsokis NA (2004) Thiol redox state (TRS) and oxidative stress in the mouse hippocampus after pentylenetetrazol-induced epileptic seizure. Neurosci Lett 357:83–86

  44. Pialoux V, Mounier R, Rock E, Mazur A, Schmitt L, Richalet JP, Robach P, Brugniaux J, Coudert J, Fellmann N (2009) Effects of the ‘live high-train low’ method on prooxidant/antioxidant balance on elite athletes. Eur J Clin Nutr 63:756–762

  45. Pialoux V, Brugniaux JV, Rock E, Mazur A, Schmitt L, Richalet JP, Robach P, Clottes E, Coudert J, Fellmann N, Mounier R (2010) Antioxidant status of elite athletes remains impaired 2 weeks after a simulated altitude training camp. Eur J Nutr 49:285–292

  46. Powers SK, Dodd S, Lawler J, Landry G, Kirtley M, McKnight T, Grinton S (1988) Incidence of exercise induced hypoxemia in elite endurance athletes at sea level. Eur J Appl Physiol 58:298–302

  47. Powers SK, Dodd S, Freeman JG, Ayers D, Samson H, McKnight T (1989a) Accuracy of pulse oximetry to estimate HbO2 fraction of total Hb during exercise. J Appl Physiol 67:300–304

  48. Powers SK, Lawler J, Dempsey JA, Dodd S, Landry G (1989b) Effects of incomplete pulmonary gas exchange on VO2max. J Appl Physiol 66:2491–2495

  49. Rasmussen J, Hanel B, Diamant B, Secher NH (1991) Muscle mass effect on arterial desaturation after maximal exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 23:1349–1352

  50. Reddy YN, Murthy SV, Krishna DR, Prabhakar MC (2004) Role of free radicals and antioxidants in tuberculosis patients. Indian J Tuberc 51:213–218

  51. Rice AJ, Scroop GC, Gore CJ, Thornton AT, Chapman MA, Greville HW, Holmes MD, Scicchitano R (1999) Exercise-induced hypoxaemia in highly trained cyclists at 40% peak oxygen uptake. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 79:353–359

  52. Romer LM, Dempsey JA (2006) Effects of exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia on limb muscle fatigue and performance. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 33:391–394

  53. Skarpanska-Stejnborn A, Basta P, Pilaczynska-Szczesniak L (2006) The influence of supplementation with black currant (Ribes nigrum) extract on selected prooxidative antioxidative balance in rowers. Stud Phys Cult Tour 13:51–58

  54. Squires RW, Buskirk ER (1982) Aerobic capacity during acute exposure to simulated altitude, 914 to 2,286 m. Med Sci Sports Exerc 14:36–40

  55. Tietze F (1969) Enzymic method for quantitative determination of nanogram amounts of total and oxidized glutathione: applications to mammalian blood and other tissues. Anal Biochem 27:502–522

  56. Torre-Bueno J, Wagner P, Saltzman H, Gale G, Moon R (1985) Diffusion limitations in normal humans during exercise at sea level and simulated altitude. J Appl Physiol 58:899–905

  57. Vasankari TJ, Kujala UM, Rusko H, Sarna S, Ahotupa M (1997) The effect of endurance exercise at moderate altitude on serum lipid peroxidation and antioxidative functions in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 75:396–399

  58. Wang JS, Lin CT (2010) Systemic hypoxia promotes lymphocyte apoptosis induced by oxidative stress during moderate exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 108:371–382

  59. Wang JS, Chen LY, Fu LL, Chen ML, Wong MK (2007) Effects of moderate and severe intermittent hypoxia on vascular endothelial function and haemodynamic control in sedentary men. Eur J Appl Physiol 100:127–135

  60. Yamaya Y, Bogaard HJ, Wagner PD, Niizeki K, Hopkins SR (2002) Validity of pulse oximetry during maximal exercise in normoxia, hypoxia, and hyperoxia. J Appl Physiol 92:162–168

  61. Zembron-Lacny A, Szyszka K, Sobanska B, Pakula R (2006) Prooxidant-antioxidant equilibrium in rowers: effect of a single dose of vitamin E. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 46:257–264

  62. Zweier JL, Flaherty JT, Weisfeldt ML (1987) Direct measurement of free radical generation following reperfusion of ischemic myocardium. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 84:1404–1407

  63. Zweier JL, Kuppusamy P, Williams R, Rayburn BK, Smith D, Weisfeldt ML, Flaherty JT (1989) Measurement and characterization of postischemic free radical generation in the isolated perfused heart. J Biol Chem 264:18890–18895

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Antonios Kyparos.

Additional information

Communicated by William J. Kraemer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kyparos, A., Riganas, C., Nikolaidis, M.G. et al. The effect of exercise-induced hypoxemia on blood redox status in well-trained rowers. Eur J Appl Physiol 112, 2073–2083 (2012) doi:10.1007/s00421-011-2175-x

Download citation


  • Exercise-induced arterial hypoxemia
  • Redox status
  • Blood
  • Oxidative stress
  • Rowing
  • Performance