Br J Sports Med 46:792-795 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091231
  • Reviews

Does ‘altitude training’ increase exercise performance in elite athletes?

  1. Andrew W Subudhi5
  1. 1Center for Integrative Human Physiology, Institute of Physiology, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Physiology, Institute of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
  3. 3Department of Physical Education, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palams de Gran Canaria, Spain
  4. 4Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
  5. 5Department of Biology and Altitude Research Center, University of Colorado, Colorada Springs, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Carsten Lundby, Center for Integrative Human Physiology, Institute of Physiology, University of Zürich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 – Zürich, Switzerland; carsten.lundby{at}
  1. Contributors CL drafted the manuscript. GPM, JAC, PB and AWJ edited and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Received 11 April 2012
  • Accepted 21 June 2012
  • Published Online First 14 July 2012


The general practice of altitude training is widely accepted as a means to enhance sport performance despite a lack of rigorous scientific studies. For example, the scientific gold-standard design of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial has never been conducted on altitude training. Given that few studies have utilised appropriate controls, there should be more scepticism concerning the effects of altitude training methodologies. In this brief review we aim to point out weaknesses in theories and methodologies of the various altitude training paradigms and to highlight the few well-designed studies to give athletes, coaches and sports medicine professionals the current scientific state of knowledge on common forms of altitude training. Another aim is to encourage investigators to design well-controlled studies that will enhance our understanding of the mechanisms and potential benefits of altitude training.


  • Competing interests None.

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