Learning From The Elite: Altitude Training For Health & Wellbeing

If I ask you to think of altitude training, what’s the image that comes to mind? Perhaps its lean looking distance runners striding across the dusty roads of the African Rift Valley. Maybe the mind is drawn to the shaved legs of elite cyclists pumping like pistons on the upper slopes of Mt Teide on Tenerife. If you’ve trained with us here at The Altitude Centre, maybe it’s an image of being doubled over the treadmill or the Wattbike nearing the end of another tough interval set.

The point being that many of us see altitude training as a tool that is solely for the elite, high performing athlete: the athlete at the top of their game looking that marginal gain.


However, if there’s one thing we’ve learnt in the health and fitness industry as it’s developed rapidly over the last couple of decades, it’s that there’s a whole lot to be learnt from elite athletes that we can apply to our own exercise habits. Whether it’s fasted workouts, recovery techniques, or how to effectively mix cardio and strength work, we’ve seen what the best of the best do, and adapted it to meet our own needs. At The Altitude Centre, we’re strong believers that the same can (and should!) be done when it comes to altitude training. Here, we’ve picked three of our favourite reasons why we believe altitude training is perfect for anyone looking for health and fitness improvement in a hurry.


  1. Altitude training is great for weight loss

To be more specific, altitude training has been shown to improve body composition. What that means is that it’s great for loosing fat while increasing muscle mass. And before you ask, that doesn’t mean you’ll end up looking like a body builder (unless you do that type of training!) rather it’s a more general ‘toning up.’ One study showed that people who trained in simulated altitude 3 times per week for 4 weeks reduced their body fat by 6% compared to just a 2% drop in people who did exactly the same training in normal conditions. Put another way, training at altitude helped participants lose fat 3 times faster than training at sea level. At the same time, lean mass increased 2% in the altitude group while the sea level group did not change at all. This mirrors our own experiences and the impressive results we’ve seen clients achieve while training at The Altitude Centre. In our most recent 6- week training camp, participants lost on average 2.4 kg by training 2-3 times per week for 6 weeks, while increasing muscle mass by 2.5%.


  1. It’s possible to enjoy training (even more) when you do it at altitude!


Something we’ve seen time and time again is that once you get the bug, it’s something you stick with. Our training camp saw 100% adherence, with everyone who set out on the camp completing all their sessions, and in many cases coming back for more at the end of the 6 weeks! One thing that seems to contribute to this effect is, quite simply, how we feel after a session at altitude. Research has shown the potential for an increase in dopamine levels in the brain after altitude training which, combined with the dopamine rush from exercise, may well explain why so many people feel upbeat and energised by altitude training (dopamine being the hormone responsible for lifting our mood). Others have suggested it’s because training at altitude feels less “unpleasant.” One recent study showed that when training at altitude participants felt fewer feelings of what the researchers called limb discomfort, which we can take to mean the negative, painful feel of exercise. In turn, this meant they trained better, and were more likely to stick to their training, reaping the long term benefits! We’d say it’s a combination of these factors, and can’t deny the role that quick results play in how you feel about exercise: seeing the weight loss and toning benefits of altitude training so quickly is bound to leave you wanting to make even more progress!

Mentally I am stronger, and I have more confidence in what I can achieve… and also my day-to-day life. Most of the barriers we put up are in the mind, and these 6 weeks have shown that it is possible to remove the limits.



  1. Altitude training is great for cardio-metabolic health


This is pretty much the scientific way of saying not only do you lose weight and feel good, but with altitude training your internal health is improved. For example, participants in our 6-week training camp significantly reduced their hip:waist measurement ratio and their blood pressure, which we know are predictors of conditions including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Similarly, studies have shown the power of altitude training to normalise the amount of fat in the blood, including reducing your ‘bad’ cholesterol, which are important markers of your metabolic health, as well as improve glucose tolerance which is key in predicting diabetes risk. The really great thing here is that although exercising at altitude is best for these outcomes, it’s possible to achieve meaningful improvements in these parameters just through passive exposures to altitude, known as intermittent hypoxic exposure. Not only does this mean you don’t necessarily have to exercise to get some of the benefit, it means that on rest days or when exercise just doesn’t seem that appealing, you can still improve your health!



So in short, quick results, enjoying your training, and improved metabolic health are three of the things you can expect from altitude training when it comes to your health and wellbeing. For more details of how altitude training can help you achieve your health and fitness goals, and to arrange an initial consultation with one of our Sport Scientists, just fill out the form at the bottom of this page!!


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