Aurora at high altitude Credit: Arinahabich\123RF
At higher altitude places such as Denver, less oxygen reaches the body, making it harder to breathe. Also, the muscles get worn out faster than usual. Whenever people come to visit, they always ask why it’s harder to catch your breath when you go running the first couple of weeks. Exercising at high altitudes creates certain changes in our body. Those changes could even cause a certain strain on our body.
Any physical activity that is performed at more than 5000 feet, is limited by the high altitude. This is caused by the decline in the barometric pressure — the higher up you go, the less oxygen pressure you have. It is important to keep in mind that it takes a certain amount of time to get accustomed to higher conditions since this situation creates a lack of supply of oxygen from being transported and delivered from the lungs to other parts of the body. So, the time for oxygen to be absorbed by the blood and exhaled will feel shorter. When we try to inhale more air, the frequency and the depth of breathing will increase. Unlike being at sea level, our heart rate is faster in high altitudes no matter if we are resting or exercising. To deal with this strain on our body, the body starts to produce more red blood cells and increase the level of hemoglobin to carry the oxygen to the blood. The increased hemoglobin concentration speeds up the heart rate and helps it to function normally.
Air in higher places
Additionally, the air in higher places is much more condensed than at sea level. Not only does the temperature decrease the higher you climb, it also gets dryer. The dry air could cause a loss of liquids and dehydration. Therefore, it is important to drink plenty of water before and during those outdoor activities at high altitude, especially if you come from lower ground. It is important to note that for each person it takes a different period of time to get used to such conditions and it is definitely an individual issue. Some research shows that people who are born and live permanently at high altitudes, have this natural acclimation that allows for their body to function normally just as people who live at sea level.
But generally, for people who are used to living at sea level, that kind of change in altitude could cause a certain deterioration in physical performance. Those changes in the body can initially affect a person’s willpower to exercise because all physical activities at high altitude seem much harder to perform than they usually are. For the average population, the body can perform at half of its ability than at sea level.