Altitude and Athletic Performance


THE decision to hold the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City at an altitude of 7,500 ft. above sea-level has aroused interest in the effects of altitude on athletic performance. It has been known for some time that the maximum oxygen intake of acclimatized adults falls off right from sea-level upwards, reaching 50 per cent of the sea-level at 20,000 ft.1. According to these results the decline in maximum oxygen intake at 7,500 ft. would be 8 per cent and the times for running distances of 1,500 m and more should be longer by approximately this amount. Over shorter distances, an increasingly large fraction of the total energy requirement is covered anaerobically and the decrement should be progressively smaller. In sprint events, factors such as the reduced density of the air at altitude might even lead to improved performance.

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  1. 1

    Pugh, L. G. C. E., Gill, M. B., Lahiri, S., Milledge, J. S., Ward, M. P., and West, J. B., J. App. Physiol., 19, 431 (1964).

  2. 2

    United States 1956 Olympic Book, edit. by Bushnell, A. S., and Lentz, A. G. (U.S. Olympic Association, New York, 1957).

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PUGH, L. Altitude and Athletic Performance. Nature 207, 1397–1398 (1965).

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