A high-altitude training mask is a gas mask that is used to reduce oxygen intake while breathing for the purpose of improving athletic performance. This training mask is also called an elevation mask or elevation training mask. It mimics the effects of high-altitude training. Usually each increase in altitude is accompanied by decrease in atmospheric barometric pressure and decrease in partial oxygen pressure leading to physiological changes and altitude illness. Sudden ascent to a high-altitude by a person whose body is not used to the atmospheric differences can result in fatal altitude illness or death. Hence, the mask is used for training for those who are unable to train at elevation in their daily routine. A training mask will often run around $70 to $80 USD.
Structure of an Elevation Mask
Usually an elevation altitude mask is marketed as a simulation of elevation and thus it forces an individual to breath against resistance, as if that person is at a high-altitude. This mask looks like a gas mask that fits over the user’s face, covering the bottom half of the face and also fit with eye-holes. It also has filter that goes over the mouth, which restricts the breathing of the person wearing the mask. This mask is light in weight, comfortable to wear, and washable. It is available in large, medium and small sizes.
This mask comes with three color-coded filters:
- Yellow: easy with normal airflow
- Orange: medium with lightly restricted airflow
- Red: difficult with heavily restricted airflow
How does it work?
It is believed that an high-altitude mask works by two mechanisms.
1) The first mechanism works by increasing the red blood cells in the body. The multilevel resistance system reduces the airflow through patent pending flux valve system. The elevation mask promotes increased lung capacity by forcing an individual to inhale fuller deeper breaths. When a person breaths against the resistance, lining in the lungs stretches out leading to stretching of alveoli. This allows for more blood flow to the alveoli for more oxygen transportation. Thus, the performance of lungs significantly increases. During this process red blood cells increase which ultimately transports more oxygen to the body and provides better performance and endurance.
2) Another mechanism works by optimizing the body’s ability to use oxygen more efficiently. This works when the muscular system efficiently uses oxygen by regulating the body’s pH, transport of glucose, growth of new blood vessels, and metabolic breakdown of glucose.
Benefits of using an Altitude Mask
Many people use them in the gymnasium or during heavy workouts for the following reasons:
- It strengthens the diaphragm and increases the lung capacity
- It increases the anaerobic threshold
- It trains the lungs and body to perform at higher level with less oxygen
- It helps to increase performance in sports like basketball, football, hockey, running, martial arts and yoga
- It increases mental and physical stamina
- It helps to focus and improve the concentration level
Risk of using an Altitude Mask
Training masks may aggravate a preexisting lung and cardiac condition like asthma or hypertension
Long and continuous use of an elevation style mask could lead to deficiency of oxygen in the blood.
Anyone who plans on using a training mask should consult a physician first. If you suffer from lung diseases like asthma or exercise induced asthma, gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, diabetes, hypothyroidism and organ transplant you should be especially careful.
In conclusion, high elevation training masks can have significant benefits for performance endurance athletes. However it is risky for individuals with cardiac and pulmonary conditions, hypertension and other health issues. The mask is a highly effective device that changes the cellular and structural mechanisms and improves health and performance.