Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, July 25
A new study by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has suggested that techniques used by sportspersons to enhance their performance can be used for faster acclimatisation of troops being deployed to high altitude areas.
Since the Olympic Games were held at a high altitude in Mexico City in 1968, the usefulness of training at altitude or in hypoxic conditions for the improvement of aerobic exercise performance has received considerable attention among athletes, coaches, and scientists
Intermittent Hypoxia Training (IHT) at sea level has been recommended before proceeding to high altitude as an approach for rapid acclimatisation. This approach may be helpful to reduce the occurrence of acute mountain sickness and leads to better acclimatisation at high altitudes in a shorter duration.
IHT consists of sessions in which an individual is required to breathe hypoxic or low oxygen level air for a few minutes alternated with intervals of breathing hyperoxic or normal air. Recent research has shown that the use of IHT in sports medicine improves physical performance and induces pre-acclimatisation without any pharmacological interventions. Exposure to moderate hypoxic episodes has also been shown to elicit beneficial effects by activating the adaptive responses in the human body and protects against hypertension, myocardial injuries, heart arrhythmia and bronchial asthma.
Thirty Army personnel were divided into two groups. IHT was administered for four hours per day for four days at sea level and within 24-48 hours they were airlifted to 11,700 feet in Ladakh. Their bio-markers and vital parameters were analysed.
Tests showed that IHT exposure decreased the oxidative stress markers and enhanced the level of antioxidants which facilitates faster acclimatisation to high altitudes. The findings of the study, undertaken by six scientists from DRDO’s Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, were published in June 2021.
High altitude, according to the study, is associated with several environmental challenges such as low temperature, high-velocity winds, ionizing radiations, and low oxygen levels, which lead to a decrease in physical and mental performance. Rapid ascent to high altitude without proper acclimatisation may cause detrimental effects on health and also compromise operational capabilities.
Proper acclimatisation can resolve the problems and reduce the severity of illness. This is vital in the Indian context as the Army deploys a large number of soldiers in high altitude areas in the eastern as well as western theaters. This number went up exponentially since the ongoing stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control began in May last year.
DRDO as well as the Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services have been working on various technologies and methodologies to cut down on the acclimatisation period and mitigate mountain sickness. The present acclimatisation protocol is divided into three phases spread over 11 days.
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