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Viagra Helps Cyclists' Exercise Performance at High Altitude

Drug reduces 6 kilometer time-trial by 15 percent at high altitude, but not at sea level

TUESDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Sildenafil (Viagra) may improve exercise performance in men cycling at conditions similar to those found at high altitudes, but does not affect performance at sea level, according to a report in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Andrew R. Hsu, of the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues studied 10 cyclists at sea level and under conditions simulating high altitude (3,874 meters).

One hour before exercise, the men were randomized to placebo, or to 50 or 100 milligrams of sildenafil. They cycled one hour at sea level and 30 minutes in high-altitude conditions, then 10 kilometers at sea level and 6 km at high altitude. One hour before the high-altitude test, the cyclists inhaled 12.8 percent oxygen gas to simulate hypoxia.

The researchers found that sildenafil did not improve the cyclists' performance at sea level, but it boosted their exercise potential at high altitude, reducing the time of 6 km trials by 15 percent.

"Despite the benefits provided to some subjects in the present investigation, our findings are not intended to promote sildenafil as a sports performance-enhancing supplement to be taken without medical consultation or supervision at altitude," the authors conclude. "Using sildenafil at altitude could be dangerous."

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