Physiological factors which can affect sport and exercise.

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There are a number of physiological factors which can affect sport and exercise.

Listed below are a few.

  1. Environment 

A definition for environment; the aggregate of all external and internal conditions (such as temperature, humidity, radiation, magnetic and electric fields, shock vibration, etc.) either natural or man made, or self-induced, that influences the form, performance, reliability or survival of an item.


As altitudes increases air density decreases progressively, at sea level barometric pressure averages around 760mm Hg, at 5500m  above sea level the pressure is about half that. Relatively small decrease in barometric pressures exerts little affect on a person during rest or even mild exercise, but performance in vigorous aerobic activities greatly decreases. The poor performance of athletes in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was caused by the reduction of oxygen in the air (due to the altitude). And the body unable to meet the demands for oxygen, But altitude does not affect anaerobic activities as oxygen does not get utilised.

With lower amount of oxygen in the air at altitude it is possible to suffer illnesses such as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) which represents the body's intolerance of the hypoxic (low oxygen) environment at one's current elevation. High Altitude Cerebral Edema; this is when the brain swells and ceases to function properly. High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, fluid in the lungs.


Water pressure also has an effect on the physiological functions of the body; Stafford-Brown et al states that when a person is submerged, their resting heart rate will decrease. This is attributed to the pressure of the water on the body producing central pooling of the blood. This extra pressure acts to increase the rate of blood returning to the heart, which will result in an increased stroke volume. This in turn producing a lower hear rate.

We can dive up to about 10 metres before the body will start to feel any discomfort. But with training people have been able to free dive 100m and more! If the face is submersed in cold water it triggers a vasoconstriction process were the blood flow from the periphery goes to the central nervous system and vital organs. Therefore most of the blood flow is going to the vital organs and reducing the metabolic rate. A trained diver can reduce their bradycardia (vasoconstriction) by up to 50% so if their resting heat beat was 75 beats per minutes (bpm) it would become 37bpm


How cold climates affect the body depends greatly on how cold the environment is. During exercise it can actually have a positive effect on performance, as the cardiovascular system no longer has to divert blood to the periphery for heat loss, so it can supply the muscles with extra blood containing nutrients. However, exposure to extremely cold environments which involve sports such as skiing and mountain climbing can cause the body’s core temperature to drop below normal and cause hypothermia. So the body has to gain heat in order to survive, the body attempts to prevent heat loss as well as to increase heat production.

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The effects that hot climates have on the body are peripheral dilation of blood vessels which is affected by the autonomic nervous system upon detection by the thermal centre in the hypothalamus of an increase in core temperature. Warm blood is brought to the under surface of the skin, thus increasing the temperature gradient and encouraging convection of heat from the blood. This increase in peripheral blood flow causes an increase in the venous return to the heart, which in turn causes the heart rate to increase and a rise in cardiac output. Renal blood flow ...

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