Relationship of Activity Patterns to Acute Mountain Sickness in South Pole Workers

Girish Pathangey, Courtney M. Wheatley-Guy, Glenn Stewart, Paul J. Anderson, Maile L.Ceridon Richert, Andrew D. Miller, Jacob B. Johnson, Bruce Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to evaluate the influence of physical activity on incidence of acute mountain sickness (AMS) by continuous activity monitoring in a free-living sample of South Pole workers over the initial 72 h at altitude exposure of 2,840 m (9,318 ft). Body Media activity monitors were worn by 47 healthy participants. AMS was defined by the Lake Louise symptom questionnaire. Venous blood samples were taken at sea level and approximately 48 h after high altitude exposure. AMS incidence was 34% (n=16/47) over the first 48 h and 40% (n=19/47) over 72 h. On day 2 at high altitude, individuals with AMS demonstrated a significantly greater increase in the percent change in physical activity metrics from baseline: total energy expenditure 19±13 vs. 5±7%, total steps 65±51 vs. 10±18%, metabolic equivalent of tasks 21±13 vs. 7±13%, and time spent performing moderate to vigorous physical activity 114±79 vs. 26±27% for individuals with AMS vs. no AMS, respectively, p<0.05. In addition, erythropoietin and vascular endothelial growth factor were 1.69 and 1.75 times higher, respectively, in those with AMS. In conclusion, workers who engaged in increased physical activity and activity intensity during initial exposure to the South Pole were more susceptible to developing AMS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-446
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2019


  • acclimatization
  • altitude
  • exercise
  • hypobaric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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