Impairment of 3000-m run time at altitude is influenced by arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation

Robert F. Chapman, Joel M. Stager, David A. Tanner, James Stray-Gundersen, Benjamind D. Levine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


CHAPMAN, R. F., J. M. STAGER, D. A. TANNER, J. STRAY-GUNDERSEN, and B. D. LEVINE. Impairment of 3000-m Run Time at Altitude Is Influenced by Arterial Oxyhemoglobin Saturation. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 43, No. 9, pp. 1649.1656, 2011. The decline in maximal oxygen uptake (ΔV O2max) with acute exposure to moderate altitude is dependent on the ability to maintain arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation (SaO2). Purpose: This study examined if factors related to ΔV O2max at altitude are also related to the decline in race performance of elite athletes at altitude. Methods: Twenty-seven elite distance runners (18 men and 9 women, V. O2max = 71.8 ± 7.2 mL·kg-1·min-1) performed a treadmill exercise at a constant speed that simulated their 3000-m race pace, both in normoxia and in 16.3% O2 (∼2100 m). Separate 3000-m time trials were completed at sea level (18 h before altitude exposure) and at 2100 m (48 h after arrival at altitude). Statistical significance was set at P ≤ 0.05. Results: Group 3000-m performance was significantly slower at altitude versus sea level (48.5 ± 12.7 s), and the declines were significant in men (48.4 ± 14.6 s) and women (48.6 ± 8.9 s). Athletes grouped by low SaO2 during race pace in normoxia (SaO2 > 91%, n = 7) had a significantly larger ΔV O2 in hypoxia (-9.2 ± 2.1 mL·kg-1·min-1) and Δ3000-m time at altitude (54.0 ± 13.7 s) compared with athletes with high SaO2 in normoxia (SaO2 9 93%, n = 7, ΔV O2 = -3.5 ± 2.0 mL·kg-1·min-1, Δ3000-m time = 38.9 ± 9.7 s). For all athletes, SaO2 during normoxic race pace running was significantly correlated with both ΔV O2 (r = -0.68) and Δ3000-m time (r = -0.38). Conclusions: These results indicate that the degree of arterial oxyhemoglobin desaturation, already known to influence ΔV O2max at altitude, also contributes to the magnitude of decline in race performance at altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1649-1656
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine and science in sports and exercise
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 8 2011


  • Elite athletes
  • Exercise
  • Hemoglobin
  • Hypoxia
  • Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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