The effects of training at altitude on the functional capacity of the athletes

Por: Constantin Ciucurel, Luminita Georgescu e Manuela Ciucurel.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The aim of the study is to determine the effects of the training at altitude, by physiological (cardio-respiratory) modifications point of view. A series of physiological changes at altitude might have positive or negative implications on training success. While it seems clear that training at altitude will be beneficial for competing at that same altitude, it is not certain if the athletes will improve their sea-level performances using such methods.


The experiment utilized two groups: an experimental one (N=13, average age 30.50) and a witness one (N=14, average age 31.43); we realized four evaluations of the experimental group: at sea-level; after the first day of exposure at 2000 m altitude; at sea-level after three weeks of training at altitude; at sea-level after three weeks from the coming back from the altitude stage. For the witness group we realized two evaluation at sea-level, at three weeks interval. The training consisted for both groups in a daily training during three weeks, 6 days a week, two hours a day on bicycle ergometer. The parameters investigated were: age, stature, weight, respiratory frequency, vital capacity, heart rate, blood pressure, Ruffier’s index, anaerobic capacity (Sargent test) and aerobic capacity (Astrand test).


The first day spending at altitude determines the increase of the cardiac and respiratory travail and the diminution of the general effortful capacity, by lowering of the aerobic capacity (p0.01). For equal work load training at sea-level, the witness group had a smaller improvement of the functional and effortful capacity than the experimental group (p0.01). After the training at altitude we ascertained the diminution of the cardio-respiratory travail, the optimization of the vital capacity, of the aerobic and anaerobic capacity; after three weeks from the coming back from altitude, the subjects are losing some acquisitions of the functional status and of the effortful capacity (p0.01).

Discussion / Conclusions

A training stage at altitude represents a successful modality to increase the functional and the effortful capacity of the organism. The acquisitions must be exploited in maximum three weeks, because after this period the modifications are progressively reducing the amplitude. The results confirm the adaptation that human physiological systems make during exercise in response to exposure to stressful environments like altitude.


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