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Can an increased oxygen supply make you stronger?

  1. Aug 27, 2010 #1

    A friend of mine told me her dad used to work in the coal mines, like 800m under the ground, and he found that whenever he had to carry something heavy from inside to outside of the coal mine, he always noticed that carrying that same thing underground was easier than carrying it outside (at sea level).

    I was wondering: is it a plausible explanation that 800m underground there is a higher atmospheric pressure and this somehow leads to an increased oxygen intake in the bloodstream (why exactly? the ratio varies with height?) and as oxygen is used in the muscles for burning, in return of work, this could maybe help him carry the load?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 27, 2010 #2
    The explanation is more likely psychological.
  4. Aug 27, 2010 #3
    I would assume the opposite, if he worked enough underground he was aclimatized to the denser air underground. So it might have been that it was the thinner ground level air that affected his preformance and not the other way around.
  5. Aug 27, 2010 #4


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    Hyperbaric chambers are designed around the principle that increased atmpospheric pressure will indeed drive more gases such as oygen into the tissues. So yes, your friend's dad was effectively in a mild hyperbaric pressure chamber.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  6. Aug 28, 2010 #5
    zhermes - How so? Is it a common psychological effect? Or do you think when the math is done the oxygen increase will amount to a negligble amount?

    madcat - Hm, what's the crucial difference between the two cases which makes you think the opposite?

    Dave - very interesting, I will google that

    Thank you all :)
  7. Aug 28, 2010 #6
    Sometimes runners travel to high locations just before a meet. The reason is that at high altitudes the air is thinner and the body produces more red blood cells(RBC's) in order to compensate. When they return to more normal levels they will have the extra RBC's for a week or two giveing them an advantage. If however this person spent most of his time underground in the mine his body might have a reduced level of RBC's because they would be unneeded in the thicker mine air. Then when they had to return to the surface they would be at a disadvantage as the air would be thinner. It would take a week or two at the surface for them to have the same arobic capasity that normal people at that elevation would have.
  8. Aug 28, 2010 #7
    That sounds very reasonable! Thanks.
  9. Aug 28, 2010 #8
    Also, Apolo Ohno this past Olympics would force himself to yawn several times right before he raced to get increased levels of oxygen. (It also had the side effect of making the others racers think he wasn't worried at all, hehe.)
  10. Aug 29, 2010 #9


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    Plausible as it may sound, is this actually true though?

    Just because lower than normal air pressure results in an increase in RBCs, this does not mean higher than normal air pressure results in lower than normal RBCs.

    eg. Compared to my normal skin, extra tissue will build up (i.e. callouses) where the skin rubs on clothes, tools or shoes. This is a defense reaction.

    That does not mean that the opposite is true - that my skin gets extra thin where it does not rub on anything.
  11. Aug 29, 2010 #10
    Is there any way to find out?
  12. Aug 29, 2010 #11
    You have a point Dave, but it depends on the geography of the area the mine is in and the level of pressureization the mine operates at. Im sure theres a base level of RBC's but I doubt I can find it.
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