Have you ever wondered why athletes head for the hills pre-season to fine-tune their training and endurance? Or wondered why Kenyans are hard to beat in any world-class marathon? The answer lies in the fact that winning athletes often live or train at altitude (Kenya’s highest point is Mount Kenya at 5,100m above sea level) where the air is much thinner and their bodies have to work harder to move.
Altitude training has been used for decades by athletes across a wide range of sports to improve performance (preferably over 2,400 metres (8,000 ft) above sea level).
Now, for us sea-level dwellers we’re not going to jet set off to the Rockies to train for a month in order to see a boost in our performance or everyday wellbeing —even though it would be amazing… So, the next best thing is to simulate the experience of working out at elevation by using high altitude training equipment.
In a nutshell, altitude training the lowers oxygen concentration in an altitude environment causes the body to be more efficient at using fuel and oxygen and triggers a variety of physiological responses and changes in your body at a number of levels that improve metabolic efficiency.
Hypoxic training sessions can give you a great workout with much less stress on your body, or enhance the effectiveness of any workout you do while making your exercise more time-efficient. It really is like accelerating your workout session plus it’s great for people with limited exercise tolerance (e.g. can only walk) get more value from altitude training.
Altitude Training Assists In
- Fat Loss, reduced appetite and increased leptin hormone levels
- Diabetes management/prevention and insulin/glucose sensitivity
- Osteoporosis and bone density
- Aerobic endurance and energy levels
- Anaerobic fitness and lactic acid tolerance
- Anaemia, due to increased EPO, red blood cells and haemoglobin
- Testosterone and growth hormone
- Hypertrophy (lean body mass) and strength training outcomes
- Cardiac surgery rehabilitation
- Insomnia, serotonin and endorphins
Other potential benefits include:
- Improved dexterity, co-ordination and cognitive decision making under stress and when fatigued.
- Excites neural plasticity and facilitates positive re-wiring of the brain and central nervous system.
- Enhanced collagen production, with improvements in wound healing, beauty treatment outcomes and skin elasticity.
Altitude training technology is currently used extensively by:
- The Australian Institute of Sport and many other world-class institutes of sports.
- Many professional sports teams such as Collingwood, Lions, St Kilda, Crows, Suns, Storm, Titans, South Sydney, Tigers and the Bulldogs.
- Elite sportspeople (including golfers and formula one drivers) seeking to improve coordination and performance under stress.
- Leading-edge executives to enhance their performance, decision making, negotiating and cognitive abilities in stressful and demanding situations.
- Hospitals, physios and beauty clinics to optimise the outcome for their patients and clients.
Altitude Training Wellness Benefits
If you are not looking to necessarily improve your endurance levels but are more interested in the wellness aspects of altitude training then its interesting to note that everyday inefficient oxygen utilisation accelerates ageing, whilst efficient oxygen utilisation minimises the effects of ageing on the body. Our bodies are in effect much like burning candles or decaying fruit, but hypoxic training in a simulated altitude environment makes our bodies use oxygen more effectively, thereby slowing down the ageing process and increasing the characteristics of youthfulness.
Clinical research and empirical evidence suggest the following potential positive outcomes of low-intensity hypoxic training in a simulated altitude training environment.
- Accelerated fat loss
- Increased fat burning aerobic enzymes and mitochondria
- Boosts resting metabolic rate for days after your hypoxic workout
- The powerful stimulant effect of the hormone EPO
- Reduced appetite and increased leptin hormone levels
- Improved insulin and glucose sensitivity and decreased diabetes symptoms
- Increased growth hormone production (the bodies most powerful fat-burning hormone)
- Improved skin elasticity, tone and appearance
- Reduction of skin wrinkles
- Increased collagen production
- Accelerated wound healing
- Greater skin micro-circulation
- Dramatically faster recovery from plastic surgery, with superior outcomes
I am super excited by what may come from it! Everybody reacts differently to altitude environments and sure, it’s not for everyone, but with so many awesome benefits to come from this type of training, it’s certainly worthwhile to give it a shot! It could just mean sitting on a bike or walking on a treadmill for 30 mins at a talking pace a couple of times a week.