Absence of work efficiency differences during cycle ergometry exercise in Bolivian Aymara

Tom D. Brutsaert, Jere D. Haas, Hilde Spielvogel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study tested the hypothesis that Andean natives are adapted to high altitude (HA) via high work efficiency during exercise in hypoxia. A total of 186 young males and females were tested in Bolivia, comprising eight different subject groups. Groups were identified based on gender, ancestry (Aymara vs. European), altitude of birth (highlands vs. lowlands), and the altitude where tested (420, 3600, 3850 m). This design allows partitioning of ancestral (i.e., genetic) and developmental effects. To minimize measurement error, subjects were given two submaximal exercise tests on a cycle ergometer (on separate days). Each test consisted of four 5-min work bouts (levels), each separated by a 5-min rest period. For all groups, the oxygen consumption (V O2)-work rate relationship was not different from the sea-level reference. Gross and net efficiencies (GE and NE) were not different between groups at any work level, with the exception of European men born in the lowlands and acclimatized and tested at 3600 m. These men showed slightly lower VO2 at high work output, but this may be due to a nonsteady-state VO2 kinetic, rather than to an altered steady-state VO2-work rate relationship per se. There were no significant group differences in delta efficiency (DE). In sum, these results provide no support for the hypothesis of energetic advantage during submaximal work in Andean HA natives. A review and analysis of the literature suggest that the same is true for HA natives in the Himalayas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-59
Number of pages19
JournalHigh Altitude Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Altitude
  • Andes
  • Energetic efficiency
  • Himalayas
  • Hypoxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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