Working out has never been so scientific, technologically sophisticated, or trendy. Every day there is a new tool, workout, or new study being published on the most effective way to train for the most effective results. Training and exercise regimens have gone from your average trip to the gym to exposing your body to elements like heat, subzero temperatures, or saltwater “floating” to help induce muscle recovery and fitness gains. Methods that used to be available to the world’s most elite athletes are now available to anyone looking to improve their performance on the training circuit, posing a few questions: Do these new methods make a difference? Are they worth the money? And should you be adding them to your current training session?
Researchers selected 21 males of above average physical conditioning. These participants were separated into three groups and exposed to various environmental factors while cycling. The male participants completed a daily training session of 60 minutes of cycling in one of the three conditions: hot conditions (104° F), hypoxic conditions (equivalent to an altitude of 3000 meter or about 9800 feet), and a room temperature control group. They also completed pre and post-testing sessions in low oxygen conditions while cycling at moderate intensity for 40 minutes, followed by a five-minute cooldown and a 10-mile cycling trial.
Researchers found that time trial performance in low oxygen conditions were improved by about 5-7% following 10 days of heat acclimation or hypoxic acclimation, but was unchanged in the control group. The results proved that the body does in fact benefit from environmental stressors while training.
So what does all this science mean? Those who train at an above average level, especially males, can benefit from training in an environmental stressor such as high altitude or high temperatures. The stress of heat on the body can create a reduction in physical strain, making your muscles more flexible and less sore helping the down time between workouts, muscle recovery and gains in performance. At the end of the day, there are plenty of ways to improve your physical fitness, but it’s up to you to decide if the results are worth the time, energy and money.