Effects of Altitude Training

Altitude training gyms and chambers are increasingly becoming more popular in our cities. At altitude, the barometric pressure is reduced which decreases the partial pressure of oxygen we inhale. Most altitude training centres will reduce the percentage of oxygen in the air to induce the same effects (hypoxia). How does it feel? I recently did a 10 min intensity sprint on a bike in 14% oxygen. My breathing rate increased to try to get more oxygen into my body, my heart rate increased dramatically and my legs and arms both felt very heavy to produce the same work rate as I did outside the hypoxic chamber.

The benefits of altitude training can be immense, mainly for aerobic performance that relies on our oxygen transport system. However, there is a dose response, meaning you need a defined period of time for the body to adapt to performance-based changes in the hypoxic environment. Some have suggested from 21 hours per week for some benefits and up to 10 days of continuous hypoxic exposure. This is to reach performance goals for endurance sports, increasing the body’s aerobic capacity and ability to produce more work.

What is forgotten in the new age of accessible hypoxic chambers is that intensity is limited when training in this environment, meaning that volume of work completed is lower which may lead to little benefit. The body needs time to adapt to these physiological stressors, which may not be met by intermittent hypoxic training at your local boutique facility. However, studies have shown that training in hypoxia can increase metabolic rate and increase the hormone leptin, which reduces appetite. At the very least this may have meaningful results for weight loss in some people. If you want to discuss ways to improve performance contact an accredited exercise physiologist at Absolute Balance today on 9244 5580 or email info@absolutebalance.com.au.


Taylor Downes

Exercise Consultant – B.Sc. Sport & Exercise B.Ed. Human Movement (ESSAM)




Lippl, F. J., Neubauer, S., Schipfer, S., Lichter, N., Tufman, A., Otto, B., & Fischer, R. (2010). Hypobaric hypoxia causes body weight reduction in obese subjects. Obesity, 18(4), 675-81. doi:http://dx.doi.org.libproxy.murdoch.edu.au/10.1038/oby.2009.509

Rodríguez, F. A., Truijens, M. J., Townsend, N. E., Stray-Gundersen, J., Gore, C. J., & Levine, B. D. (2007). Performance of runners and swimmers after four weeks of intermittent hypobaric hypoxic exposure plus sea level training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(5), 1523-1535. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01320.2006