Exercise at Altitude
Altitude sickness can affect a person at elevations of 8000 feet
and higher. The mechanisms of altitude sickness are not totally
understood. However, is is known that with increasing altitude
there is a decrease in barometric pressure which creates a lower
partial pressure of oxygen. This means that oxygen delivery to
the body is decreased. Signs and symptoms of altitude sickness
begins 4-6 hours after arrival at altitude (rare below 8000 feet
and affects most above 10,000 feet).
- Mild: headache, lack of energy, nausea, dizziness, weakness, insomnia
- Severe: severe headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath with exercise, marked fatigue, irregular or periodic breathing, apnea
- Descent to a lower altitude, though this is rarely needed for mountain sickness. Drink fluids, eat a light diet, and reduce activity
Exercising at altitude may require acclimatization. Acclimatization allows a persons body to physiologically adapt to the decreased partial pressure of oxygen. There are other types of altitude-related medical problems that can occur.
Most exercise physiology textbooks have some information that relates to activity at altitude.