Altitude exposure at 1800 m increases haemoglobin mass in distance runners

Laura Garvican-Lewis, Iona Halliday, Chris Abbiss, Philo Saunders, Christopher Gore

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37 Citations (Scopus)


The influence of low natural altitudes (< 2000 m) on erythropoietic adaptation is currently unclear, with current recommendations indicating that such low altitudes may be insufficient to stimulate significant increases in haemoglobin mass (Hb mass). As such, the purpose of this study was to determine the influence of 3 weeks of live high, train high exposure (LHTH) at low natural altitude (i.e. 1800 m) on Hb mass, red blood cell count and iron profile. A total of 16 elite or well-trained runners were assigned into either a LHTH (n = 8) or CONTROL (n = 8) group. Venous blood samples were drawn prior to, at 2 weeks and at 3 weeks following exposure. Hb mass was measured in duplicate prior to exposure and at 2 weeks and at 3 weeks following exposure via carbon monoxide rebreathing. The percentage change in Hb mass from baseline was significantly greater in LHTH, when compared with the CONTROL group at 2 (3.1% vs 0.4%; p = 0.01;) and 3 weeks (3.0% vs -1.1%; p < 0.02, respectively) following exposure. Haematocrit was greater in LHTH than CONTROL at 2 (p = 0.01) and 3 weeks (p = 0.04) following exposure. No significant interaction effect was observed for haemoglobin concentration (p = 0.06), serum ferritin (p = 0.43), transferrin (p = 0.52) or reticulocyte percentage (p = 0.16). The results of this study indicate that three week of natural classic (i.e. LHTH) low altitude exposure (1800 m) results in a significant increase in Hb mass of elite distance runners, which is likely due to the continuous exposure to hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-417
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Sports Science and Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Erythropoiesis
  • Hypoxia
  • Hypoxic dose
  • LHTH


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