Send to

Choose Destination
High Alt Med Biol. 2006 Summer;7(2):105-15.

Work capacity of permanent residents of high altitude.

Author information

IBFM-National Research Council Milano, Italy.


Tibetan and Andean natives at altitude have allegedly a greater work capacity and stand fatigue better than acclimatized lowlanders. The principal aim of the present review is to establish whether convincing experimental evidence supports this belief and, should this be the case, to analyze the possible underlying mechanisms. The superior work capacity of high altitude natives is not based on differences in maximum aerobic power (V(O2 peak)), mL kg(-1)min(-1)). In fact, average V (O2 peak) of both Tibetan and Andean natives at altitude is only slightly, although not significantly, higher than that of Asian or Caucasian lowlanders resident for more than 1 yr between 3400 and 4700 m (Tibetans, n = 152, vs. Chinese Hans, n = 116: 42.4 +/- 3.4 vs. 39.2 +/- 2.6 mL kg(-1)min(-1), mean +/- SE; Andeans, n = 116, vs. Caucasians, n = 70: 47.1 +/- 1.7 vs. 41.6 +/- 1.2 mL kg(-1)min(-1)). However, compared to acclimatized lowlanders, Tibetans appear to be characterized by a better economy of cycling, walking, and running on a treadmill. This is possibly due to metabolic adaptations, such as increased muscle myoglobin content and antioxidant defense. All together, the latter changes may enhance the efficiency of the muscle oxidative metabolic machinery, thereby supporting a better prolonged submaximal performance capacity compared to lowlanders, despite equal V(O2 peak). With regard to Andeans, data on exercise efficiency is scanty and controversial and, at present, no conclusion can be drawn as to the origin of their superior performance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center