Apnea training: the acute and chronic effects on exercise tolerance within athletes and patients.

01 October 2018 → 30 September 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Respiratory medicine
    • Respiratory medicine
    • Respiratory medicine
Apnea training
Project description

This project studies the effect of voluntary apnea or breath-holding on exercise tolerance. Acute
apnea evokes two important responses, (1) a strong spleen contraction releasing red blood cells
into the blood circulation (thus increasing hemoglobin, Hb) and (2) an acute increase in
Erythropoietin (EPO), the hormone responsible for the formation of red blood cells. These
response are expected to increase blood transport and storage capacity for oxygen (O2), either
immediately following apnea (due to spleen contraction) or following an apnea training program
(due to increased EPO levels). As O2 transport capacity is one of the main performance
determining factors in multiple sports, the responses to apnea have the potential to improve
exercise performance and tolerance.
This project aims first to determine the optimal modalities (i.e., inducing the highest increase in Hb
and EPO) of an acute apnea session and an apnea training program to increase O2 carrying
capacity of the blood. Second, it will be tested whether an acute apnea session as well as an apnea
training program (with the optimal modalities to increase the O2 carrying capacity determined
from work package I) are effective in improving exercise tolerance. Third, it will be assessed
whether this training method is feasible, therapy supportive and effective in facilitating physical
activity and optimizing quality of life in a patient population in which O2 delivery to the muscles is