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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 May;31(5):658-63.

Degree of arterial desaturation in normoxia influences VO2max decline in mild hypoxia.

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Department of Kinesiology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405, USA.



Elite endurance athletes display varying degrees of pulmonary gas exchange limitations during maximal normoxic exercise and many demonstrate reduced arterial O2 saturations (SaO2) at VO2max--a condition referred to as exercise induced arterial hypoxemia (EIH). We asked whether mild hypoxia would cause significant declines in SaO2 and VO2max in EIH athletes while non-EIH athletes would be unaffected.


Nineteen highly trained males were divided into EIH (N = 8) or Non-EIH (N = 6) groups based on SaO2 at VO2max (EIH <90%, Non-EIH >92%). Athletes with intermediate SaO2 values (N = 5) were only included in correlational analyses. Two randomized incremental treadmill tests to exhaustion were completed--one in normoxia, one in mild hypoxia (FIO2 = 0.187; approximately 1,000 m).


EIH subjects demonstrated a significant decline in VO2max from normoxia to mild hypoxia (71.1+/-5.3 vs. 68.1+/-5.0 mL x kg(-1) min(-1), P<0.01), whereas the non-EIH group did not show a significant deltaVO2max (67.2+/-7.6 vs. 66.2+/-8.4 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1)). For all 19 athletes, SaO2 during maximal exercise in normoxia correlated with the change in VO2max from normoxia to mild hypoxia (r = -0.54, P<0.05). However, the change in SaO2 and arterial O2 content from normoxia to mild hypoxia was equal for both EIH and Non-EIH (deltaSaO2 = 5.2% for both groups), bringing into question the mechanism by which changes in SaO2 affect VO2max in mild hypoxia.


We conclude that athletes who display reduced measures of SaO2 during maximal exercise in normoxia are more susceptible to declines in VO2max in mild hypoxia compared with normoxemic athletes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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