June 18, 2014
This spring, 12 University of New England Applied Exercise Science students, enrolled in “Advanced Topics - Altitude Physiology” class, traveled to Colorado for one week where they had to hike a couple miles with snowshoes to the 10th Infantry Cabins in Vail Pass to conduct research for the course. There was 6-7 feet of snow on the ground along with 20-25 inches of new snow.
The class was taught by Paul S. Visich, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor and chairman of the Department of Exercise and Sport Performance, and Shireen Rahman, M.S., ATC, clinical instructor.
Students in this class spent most of the semester on UNE's Biddeford Campus, learning about how the human body adjusts to altitude exposure acutely and chronically. After getting an understanding of the physiological adaptations to altitude, students began to search the literature on topics of interest that pertained to altitude exposure.
Following the review of literature students designed three research projects to compare physiological responses between sea level and altitude of 11,000 feet. The three projects included looking at changes in inflammatory markers, cognitive function with sleeping pattern changes and sub-maximal exercise lactate accumulation following acute altitude exposure and after 5 days of adaptation to altitude. The purpose of the Colorado trip was to accomplish the altitude exposure aspect of the research.
All three projects were carried out with UNE Institutional Review Board approval, and students are currently analyzing the results with the hopes of presenting their research at the New England American College of Sports Medicine's fall meeting.
In addition to carrying out their research, students and faculty climbed Mt Quandary which is one of the 14,000 ft. + mountains in Colorado. This was a challenge for all due to a combination of altitude exposure where oxygen carrying capacity is reduced by approximately 20-25 percent, along with hiking uphill with snowshoes through 20-25 inches of new snow.
Overall the students had a wonderful trip where they could experience first hand what they learned in the classroom, along with developing a good understanding in how to complete a research project. This is the second year students have traveled to Colorado. The course is offered to students every other year.
Students who participated in this experience included: Alexandra Basiliere, Annelise Donahue, Courtney Doyon, Erin Flatley, Adam King, Sarah Lamberton, Timothy Luttik, Chad Lyons, Benjamin McGinnis, Rebecca Miles, Ryan Page, and James Parrish.