Physical Education KS4 / GCSE: The effect of altitude on the body

The Mountain Rescue service carry out a training exercise at altitude in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The service must work at heights of up to 14,000 feet.

The body must therefore adapt to an oxygen scarce setting.

Above 7,000 feet the air is one-third less dense than at sea level, so every breath takes in 30% less oxygen.

This means that you get tired quicker, especially when carrying a 25kg backpack and undergoing a 1km uphill climb.

The effects of altitude are that the body adapts overtime.

Cells in the kidneys detect the low oxygen levels and trigger the release of Erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that controls blood cell production.

More oxygen carrying blood cells means that the body compensates for less oxygen outside the body.

This adaptation induced by the environment is known as Epigenetics.

Teacher Notes

The information could be used as a case study for pupils to examine.

Pupils should be tasked to apply what they know about methods of training and what effect training at altitude would have on cardiovascular and respiratory systems in the body.

Pupils should be tasked to suggest which performance activities would be benefited most from altitude training.

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching Physical Education at KS4 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4 and 5 in Scotland.