Living the high life

Victoria University's state-of the-art Altitude Hotel is one of only two facilities in Australia providing simulated high altitude living.

The low-oxygen 'altitude hotel 'at Footscray Park Campus offers athletes and medical researchers the opportunity to experience the effects of simulated high altitude living.

The hotel has four bedrooms and can house up to 16 people at a time. However, each room can be set to a different altitude so guests can choose to 'live' in Bolivia or Arizona, or whichever altitude that best suits their training or competing agenda.

According to Associate Professor Robert Aughey, senior lecturer in exercise science and sport physiology, a 'live high, train low' program enables athletes to reap the benefits of high altitude living, while training outside the simulated environment at their usual intensity and frequency.

"Altitude training typically leads to performance improvements of one to two per cent. This sounds small, but is quite a big change for an elite athlete," says Aughey.

In another Altitude Hotel project, the first of its kind in the world, ISEAL research leader Professor David Bishop is investigating the impacts of low oxygen levels on both muscle physiology and fitness levels.

As part of the study, six participants lived 24 hours a day in the Altitude Hotel for 19 days at a simulated altitude of 3200 metres. "The study of chronic hypoxia in healthy subjects is a novel experimental approach to understand the effects of hypoxia in diseases where it is not clear if hypoxia, or other elements associated with the disease, is the cause of the patient's disability," says Bishop.

Aughey says there is still much to learn about the effects of low and high oxygen environments on the human body. "Right now it's just a matter of getting funding to do more research," he says. "There is certainly no lack of ideas."

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