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Int J Sports Med. 2019 Jul;40(7):440-446. doi: 10.1055/a-0884-3014. Epub 2019 Jun 12.

Relationship of Activity Patterns to Acute Mountain Sickness in South Pole Workers.

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Mayo Clinic Arizona, Cardiovascular Diseases, Scottsdale, United States.
Mayo Clinic, Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, Rochester MN, United States.
HealthPartners West Clinic, Occupational Medicine, Saint Louis Park, United States.


This study aimed to evaluate the influence of physical activity on incidence of acute mountain sickness (AMS) by continuous activity monitoring in a free-living sample of South Pole workers over the initial 72 h at altitude exposure of 2,840 m (9,318 ft). Body Media activity monitors were worn by 47 healthy participants. AMS was defined by the Lake Louise symptom questionnaire. Venous blood samples were taken at sea level and approximately 48 h after high altitude exposure. AMS incidence was 34% (n=16/47) over the first 48 h and 40% (n=19/47) over 72 h. On day 2 at high altitude, individuals with AMS demonstrated a significantly greater increase in the percent change in physical activity metrics from baseline: total energy expenditure 19±13 vs. 5±7%, total steps 65±51 vs. 10±18%, metabolic equivalent of tasks 21±13 vs. 7±13%, and time spent performing moderate to vigorous physical activity 114±79 vs. 26±27% for individuals with AMS vs. no AMS, respectively, p<0.05. In addition, erythropoietin and vascular endothelial growth factor were 1.69 and 1.75 times higher, respectively, in those with AMS. In conclusion, workers who engaged in increased physical activity and activity intensity during initial exposure to the South Pole were more susceptible to developing AMS.

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