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I recently moved from about sea level to about 5000 feet (1500 meters). I've read VO2 max goes down something like 2% or 3% for every 1000 feet of elevation gain, and my personal experience seems to bear that out: I can see the effects on power numbers on climbs and the trainer.

I've also read it takes about 3 days to acclimatize to altitude, but I'm not entirely sure what that means, objectively. I get the impression it means one should arrive at altitude 3 days prior to a big effort to avoid the more acute symptoms of altitude sickness, like headaches and passing out.

But I'm not sure it means within 3 days one's performance will be back to what it was.

If one is permanently moving to a higher altitude, is there some longer time after which the body will physiologically adapt to the reduced oxygen, and performance will return to "normal" levels? And if so, approximately how long is this adaptation period, and is it affected by training or is it more a function of simply living at altitude?

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    Just a SWAG, but I would guess it takes about 3 months of regular exercise to adjust to a major change in altitude (especially upward). The blood must change composition, and the lungs must reconfigure themselves to a degree. But having traveled in the Rockies a few times I can say that there is a modest adaptation that occurs after about 3 days. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 21 '20 at 17:20
  • Depends on the individual. Some people will adapt faster than others. – Argenti Apparatus Jul 21 '20 at 18:29
  • @ArgentiApparatus Thanks, that's insightful. Perhaps you can share data on the distribution of adaptation times among the population? – Phil Frost Jul 21 '20 at 19:05
  • @PhilFrost I don’t have hard data on that. From my experience alpine and Himalayan mountaineering, the first few days allows you to get over the initial scute symptoms, but you need to train at altitude to bring performance back up – Argenti Apparatus Jul 21 '20 at 19:40
  • For the last part, apparently it's not uncommon (or uncontroversial) for athletes to live at high altitude or apartment with artificially low oxygen level and train at lower altitude. – ojs Jul 22 '20 at 7:55

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