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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jul;29(7):937-42.

Cardiorespiratory response to exercise in elite Sherpa climbers transferred to sea level.

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CEARE, Center of High Performance and Exercise Physiology, Medical School, University of Barcelona, Spain.


Himalayan Sherpas are well known for their extraordinary adaptation to high altitude and some of them for their outstanding physical performance during ascents to the highest summits. To cast light on this subject, we evaluated the cardiorespiratory response during exercise at sea level of six of the most acknowledged Sherpa climbers, mean age (+/- SD) 37 (+/- 7) yr old. Continuous electrocardiogram and breath-by-breath pulmonary gas exchange until exhaustion were obtained by following the Bruce protocol. We detected a maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) of 66.7 (+/- 3.7), maximal cardiac frequency of 199 (+/- 7) beats.min-1, and ventilatory anaerobic threshold at 62 (+/- 4) % of VO2max. These factors could help to explain the greater performance level shown by several elite climbers of this ethnic group. The high functional reserve demonstrated by this very select group of highlanders could be associated with natural selection and with special physiological adaptations probably induced by long-training in a hostile environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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