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Exercise at High Altitudes? How to Avoid Oxygen Deprivation

Mar 7, 2010

Exercising at high altitudes can cause oxygen deprivation in your body. While there are very few times that you will probably have to exercise at high elevations - vacations, business trips, etc. may require you to do so - there are definitely some things that you have to keep in mind before you do it. Whether you're working out outside or heading to the gym, getting in a solid workout at a high altitude is something that even the most well-trained athletes struggle to do. The oxygen present in high altitudes is under significantly lower air pressure than it is at lower altitudes, which makes it very difficult for your body to process it. Here are just a few things that you'll need to keep in mind when exercising at a high altitude.

Let Your Body Adjust

Even National Football League players struggle to play in football games in places like Denver. This is because their bodies struggle to process the oxygen that is coming in during the game. It's nearly impossible for someone to enter into a high altitude and start working out immediately. Because of this, you shouldn't even try it. To prevent oxygen deprivation from happening in your body, don't exercise the first day that you're in a new higher altitude. Rather, let you body naturally adjust to the air at that altitude. Give your body some time to process it and see what it feels like to exist in a high altitude before you push it too much.

Exercise Slowly at a High Altitude

When you feel that you're ready to start exercising at a high altitude, you shouldn't jump right in and start exercising full speed. The best thing for you to do might be to take it very slow. For instance, if you're accustomed to running five miles every day at low altitude, you might be best served to walk for a few miles the first day that you exercise. Once you get comfortable with that, try jogging (slowly!) during your next session. Gradually build up until you can run at a high altitude without suffering from oxygen deprivation. This can likely take a few days, so if you're only passing through a high altitude, be prepared to struggle to get in a workout during your time there. Your body is just not built to quickly adapt to high altitudes.

Always Work Out at a Gym at High Altitude

If you are a citizen of a city or state that's at a high altitude, you are likely accustomed to breathing in the air. But if you're not, you're probably not sure of exactly how your body will react to breathing at a high altitude. Because of this, you should not work out alone. If you do suffer from oxygen deprivation, you need to have someone around who can help you. If you suffer from oxygen deprivation, you will often need to get oxygen immediately. Working out in a gym may give you access to oxygen. At worst, you'll have someone nearby to help.

Don't assume that just because you're in good shape, you can train at a high altitude. Instead, train slowly so that your body can get used to exercising at a high altitude. It'll help you prevent oxygen deprivation.

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