Influences of Normobaric Hypoxia Training on Metabolic Risk Markers in Human Subjects


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 11 - pp 1939-1944
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817f1988
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

Purpose: Endurance exercise and hypoxia regulate pathways that are crucial to glucose and lipid metabolism. We hypothesized that training under hypoxia results in similar or even greater metabolic improvement compared with exercise under normoxia at a lower workload.

Methods: We randomly assigned 20healthy men to single blind training under hypoxia (FiO2 = 15%) or normoxia (FiO2 = 21%). Subjects trained thrice weekly for 60min over a 4-wk period at a heart rate measured at 3 mmol·L−1 lactate during pretraining exercise testing. Before and after the training period, we determined body composition, venous blood parameters, oral glucose tolerance, and blood pressure. Furthermore, we assessed oxygen uptake (V˙O2), lactate, and respiratory quotient, and heart rate (HR) during incremental exercise testing, both in hypoxia and in normoxia. Training workload was 1.39 ± 0.2 W·kg−1 in the hypoxia and 1.67 ± 0.15 W·kg−1 in the normoxia group (P< 0.001) with an identical training heart rate in both groups.

Results: Exercise capacity improved similarly with both interventions. With hypoxia training, body fat content, triglycerides, HOMA-Index, fasting insulin (P < 0.05), and area under the curve for insulin (P< 0.01) during the oral glucose tolerance test improved more than with the training in normoxia. We did not observe major changes in adipokine measurements.

Conclusion: Endurance training in hypoxia over a 4-wk period elicits a similar or even better response in terms of cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors than endurance exercise in normoxia. The fact that workload and, therefore, mechanic strain can be reduced in hypoxia could be particularly beneficial in obese patients and in patients with orthopedic conditions.

1Franz Volhard Clinical Research Center at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center, Medical Faculty of the Charité and Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, GERMANY; and 2Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, GERMANY

Address for correspondence: Jens Jordan, M.D., Institute for Clinical Pharmacology, Hannover Medical School, Carl-Neuberg-Str. 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany; E-mail:

Submitted for publication January 2008.

Accepted for publication May 2008.

©2008The American College of Sports Medicine