Altitude Training – Is it worth a try?

Benefits of Altitude Exposure

Exposure to high altitude, or reduced levels of oxygen can lead to massive improvements in an athletes capacity to exercise.  During periods of reduced oxygen breathing the body is forced to acclimatise to the oxygen available at the time.  This acclimatisation leads to the delivery of oxygen to the muscles to be improved.  As during exercise the muscles require oxygen to function, this increase in delivery leads to an increase in performance.

Whilst breathing reduced levels of oxygen the body naturally produces a hormone called erythropoetin (EPO), which stimulates the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the muscles. This increase in red blood cells allows more oxygen to be carried in the blood, allowing more to be delivered to the muscles when required.  During acclimatisation there are also a number of other physiological changes which occur and have a positive affect on performance – an increase in the number of small blood vessels, an increase in buffering capacity (ability to manage the build up of waste acid) and changes in the microscopic structure and function of the muscles themselves.

Different methods of altitude training have been categorised into three specific formats

Live High – Train High

Maximum exposure to altitude. Evidence of a positive effect at sea level is controversial, and there is less support for this method amongst experts.

Live Low – Train High

The idea behind this regime is that the athlete is exercising in a low oxygen environment, whilst resting in a normal oxygen environment. There have been some interesting findings suggesting that this technique might work, but there are no good studies showing that the technique makes any difference to the ultimate competitive performance of the athlete at sea-level. Additionally, training intensity is reduced so some athletes may find that they actually lose fitness using this regime.

Live High – Train Low

The theory behind this regime is that the body will acclimatise to altitude by living there, whilst training intensity can be maintained by training at (or near) sea level. Hence, the beneficial effects of altitude exposure are harnessed whilst some of the negative ones are avoided. With this technique, improvements in sea-level performance have been shown in athletes of all abilities.

The system available to use at Core Conditioning mimics living at altitude, whilst still allowing you to train at sea level.

As well as the aforementioned training benefits, altitude training/oxygen therapy has been shown to have numerous other health benefits, including –

  • improved sleep
  • improvements with breathing
  • decrease in symptoms of asthma, arthritis, depression and diabetes
  • improved complexion
  • increased weight-loss

To conclude the research points to the live high train low method being of most benefits to athletes of all abilities.  These benefits, however, are not limited to athletes as the general population will also see massive improvements to their own health and wellbeing.


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I am a personal trainer and sports scientist working in Manchester. After graduating from the University of Salford with an Applied Sports Science degree, i was employed by the University to work with their professional sporting partners. As part of this I spent 6 years working with the first team at Salford City Reds as a strength and conditioning coach. I was also used as a consultant sports scientist by the University for teams including Manchester City, Lancashire Cricket Club, Sale Sharks and England Lacrosse. Since leaving my position at the University I have been working as a freelance sports scientist and personal trainer in and around the Manchester Area.

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