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Benefits of Higher Altitudes

Benefits of Higher Altitudes

The concentration of oxygen in high altitudes is lower than in low altitudes. Oxygen is important because it affects the energy muscles receive to perform physical activities. Still, many athletes prefer training in higher altitudes. Notably, higher altitudes are considered productive environments for athletic training because a hypoxic environment (an environment with low oxygen concentration) induces several beneficial adaptations that can result in better athletes’ performance at lower altitudes. These include a higher hematocrit, better oxygen transportation, and boosted oxygen availability to muscles for aerobic respiration. Another beneficial adaptation is improved muscle buffering capacity (Płoszczyca et al., 2018).

As already mentioned, oxygen is an important factor for athletes because it affects the energy muscles receive to perform physical activities. However, muscles rely on red blood cells, which transport oxygen to muscles. Essentially, when athletes train at high altitudes, they experience hypoxemia (low blood percentage). Consequently, in response to hypoxemia, the brain triggers increased erythropoietin (EPO) production. EPO is a hormone produced by the kidney that initiates the production of red blood cells (Betts et al., 2013). This encourages better transportation of the limited oxygen throughout the body. Accordingly, the athlete returns to low altitude with a higher hematocrit (red blood cell percentage), which helps transport extra oxygen and boosts oxygen availability to muscles for aerobic respiration, improving athlete performance.

Furthermore, training at high altitudes is associated with several cardiovascular changes. These include increased cardiac output (CO) with increased heart rate (tachycardia), no change in stroke volume, and a slight temporary increase in blood pressure (Naeije, 2010). The cardiovascular system interacts with the respiratory system; therefore, these changes affect the respiratory system. As such, increased CO and the slight temporary increase in blood pressure result in an increased amount of blood pumped by the heart and increased blood flow to the respiratory system. Subsequently, increased blood flow means that the respiratory system can supply more oxygen and remove more carbon dioxide from the blood. In addition, the increased rate of carbon dioxide removal from the blood is associated with improved muscle buffering capacity, hence improved athlete performance.


Betts, J., Wise, J., Young, K., Desaix, P., Johnson, E., & Johnson, J. et al. (2013). Anatomy and Physiology. OpenStax.

Naeije, R. (2010). Physiological Adaptation of the Cardiovascular System to High Altitude. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases52(6), 456-466.

Płoszczyca, K., Langfort, J., & Czuba, M. (2018). The Effects of Altitude Training on Erythropoietic Response and Hematological Variables in Adult Athletes: A Narrative Review. Frontiers in Physiology9.


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Respond to the following in a minimum of 175 words:

The levels of concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere are lower at higher altitudes. However, many athletes train at high altitudes.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Why do you think this environment might be productive for athletic training?
Reflect on the way the cardiovascular system impacts the respiratory system. What might be happening between these two systems while athletes train at high altitudes?

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