Altitude training could benefit non-athletes

by Mike Isle

Simulated altitude training is well known for improving athletes’ physical performance, but a local study suggests that non-exercisers could benefit from the technique as well.

Lincoln University Sports scientist Dr Mike Hamlin recently conducted a meta-analysis to see whether this type of training could improve the cardiovascular health of people with sedentary lifestyles or heart disease.

“There’s a lot of available research on the benefits of altitude training for athletes but very little about its effect on sedentary or clinical populations,” he said.

“I reviewed 26 studies, where 22 focused on sedentary participants and four looked at clinical patients.”

Three different simulated altitude training methods were used as part of the studies.

The first two techniques included either reducing participants’ oxygen supply for three to four hours or five to ten minutes. The third involved depriving participants of adequate oxygen during exercise.

For sedentary patients, five to ten minutes was judged most likely to improve the heart rate during exercise.

“This improves fitness and means people will take longer to become exhausted during aerobic exercise,” says Dr Hamlin.

Dr Hamlin said that typically, a four week intervention of hour-long hypoxic exposure intervals five days a week, was beneficial for easier breathing and enhanced ability to exercise at maximum intensity.

“Intermittent exposure may improve fat metabolism in the short-term, but normal exercise is likely to work better for this in the long-term. However, there is evidence that intermittent exposure may improve vascular health.”