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Chapter: Medical Physiology: Aviation, High-Altitude, and Space Physiology

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Reduced Work Capacity at High Altitudes and Positive Effect of Acclimatization

In addition to the mental depression caused by hypoxia, as discussed earlier, the work capacity of all muscles is greatly decreased in hypoxia.

Reduced Work Capacity at High Altitudes and Positive Effect of Acclimatization

In addition to the mental depression caused by hypoxia, as discussed earlier, the work capacity of all muscles is greatly decreased in hypoxia. This includes not only skeletal muscles but also cardiac muscles. In general, work capacity is reduced in direct proportion to the decrease in maximum rate of oxygen uptake that the body can achieve.

To give an idea of the importance of acclimatization in increasing work capacity, consider this: The work capacities as per cent of normal for unacclimatized and acclimatized people at an altitude of 17,000 feet are as follows:



Thus, naturally acclimatized native persons can achieve a daily work output even at high altitude almost equal to that of a lowlander at sea level, but even well-acclimatized lowlanders can almost never achieve this result.


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