Living and working in the extreme environment of Mount Logan’s summit plateau poses some unique physiological challenges for our team. Scientists need not only to be physically capable, they need to be able to think, to problem-solve and feel mentally fit for the duration of both spring expeditions. Led by Dr. Michael Kennedy at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, the initiative’s physiology component explores effects of active hypoxic training and altitude acclimatization performance through the use of an intensive pre-trip, work-hardening training program. Working with the Edmonton-based team members, the study seeks to understand how high-intensity interval training in hypoxia (simulated altitude) can enhance work performance in extreme environments. Our multi-phase approach will combine exercise training, altitude acclimation, and functional task practice in order to achieve optimum readiness and to deepen our understanding of how a multi-factorial training program can enhance physiology in advance of the expedition. The support team for the expedition scientists will include graduate students from the Athlete Health Lab, whom will be assisting with the development of the training programs, supervision of training, and collection of physiological measures to track progress.

IMAGE The Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation’s Athlete Health Lab (left to right): Ting Lai, Dr. Michael Kennedy, Joao Falk Neto, and Sara Szabo (September 2019, Nicole Graham)

Beginning in September 2019, the study’s first phase will be to increase general physical fitness from the subjects’ baselines (aerobic fitness, muscle strength and endurance, metabolic fitness). Next, in January 2020, the study will shift into an acclimatization phase, where participants are exposed to increasing amounts of simulated altitude while exercising in a controlled hypoxic chamber. Functional training will begin in early April, when the altitude exposure will involve both controlled exercise in the chamber and outdoor winter training, as well as completing functional tasks during longer term exposure in the simulated altitude chamber. The final and fourth stage of the study will involve cold exposure with functional tasks in a fatigued state. The goal, here, will be to harden the participants to altitude, fatigue, and cold that is comparable to that which they will experience during their May expedition. The goal, using this multi-phase approach, is to provide clear evidence on how best to optimize occupational performance in long-term extreme cold and hypoxic environments.   

Finally, the project aims to understand how the continuous exposure on the Logan plateau itself will affect the health, fatigue, and performance intensity of the scientists. To help achieve this goal, the scientists will monitor their heart rate and oxygen saturation during the work days, as well as completing a standardized daily questionnaire.

Keep a watch on our blog for updates and dispatches.