Background[edit | edit source]
Elite runners often move to high-altitude regions like Mammoth, California, to breath in the mountain air, which has one third less oxygen than air at sea level. Geoffrey Rogow at The Wall Street Journal, explains that training at altitude increases lung capacity and endurance as well as red blood cell counts. It’s one reason 95 percent of Olympic medalists in distance running have trained at altitude since 1968.
But not everyone can train in the mountains. So athletes turn to altitude chambers, which are tents that mimic life on a mountain top—attracting notables like Michael Phelps and runner Mo Farah. The Australian swim team even had their pool outfitted with a machine that mimics altitude, reports Rogow.
So does it make a difference? Maybe, but the studies are inconclusive. One from 2005 showed few improvements for athletes and no change in hemoglobin mass. Anecdotal accounts of improvements are all over the Internet. But in these instances, it's hard to tease out real from placebo effects. While altitude training on mountains definitely works, the home version seems to be missing some critical elements.