How Long Does It Take To Acclimate To Elevation: Plus 7 Tips

How Long Does It Take To Acclimate To Elevation

When it comes to venturing into high-altitude destinations, the process of acclimation becomes vital to your experience. In this guide, we'll cover how long does it take to acclimate to elevation, with our top seven tips on how you can acclimate quicker.

How Long Does It Take To Acclimate To Elevation?

Acclimating to elevation is a gradual and complex process that varies from person to person and depends on several factors. Being based out of Colorado, we see it vary how long does it take to adjust to altitude in Denver, from a day or two to sometimes up to a week.

Whether you're planning a high-altitude trek or simply visiting a mountainous destination, understanding the dynamics of acclimation to elevation can significantly enhance your experience. In this case, we'll provide you the average time it takes for someone to acclimate.

You'll find a variation of times based on who you listen to, so to help we compiled many sources to give you the most accurate answer. Here's on average how long it takes to acclimate to elevation:

  • On average, it takes a range of between 1 to 5 days to acclimate.

How long does it take to acclimate to elevation, cited by multiple credible sources:

  • FitForTravel states it takes 3-5 days to acclimate. ¹
  • Princeton University states it takes 1-3 days to acclimate.²
  • Center For Wilderness Safety states it takes 1-3 days to acclimate.³
  • CDC states it takes 4-5 days to acclimate.⁴

To summarize, it takes on average 1-5 days to acclimate to elevation based on a variety of notable sources.

Understanding Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), is a physiological reaction that occurs at high elevation mainly due to lower oxygen levels.

Hypoxia is the result of the body's struggle to adapt to the decreased oxygen levels. As a response to the reduced oxygen, your body goes through various adjustments to cope, known as acclimatization.

Altitude sickness can manifest in a range of symptoms, which may include:

  • increased rate of breathing or heart rate
  • headaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • extreme fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness or confusion
  • difficulty sleeping or insomnia
  • feeling ill
  • loss of appetite

With this range of symptoms, altitude sickness can usually develop within 6-24 hours. To ensure a better high elevation experience, keep reading to learn how you can acclimate quicker.

How Long Until Your Body Fully Adjusts To Altitude?

While sources says it takes on average 1-5 days to acclimate, science shows it take longer to fully adjust to high altitude.

According to the science noted by iRunFar, to fully adapt to high altitude can take a minimum of 2 weeks, but preferred 4 weeks as there are substantially more benefits over that time period.⁵

Here's how long until your body fully adjusts to altitude:

  • 2-4 weeks to fully adjust to altitude

This does not mean you'll experience altitude sickness weeks after arriving to a high elevation destination. Instead, this points to the body's ability to fully adjust and adapt.

This science comes in handy for professional athletes and serious trekkers, or simply someone wondering how long it takes to fully acclimate when moving to a high altitude location.

7 Tips On How You Can Acclimate Quicker

To maximize your experience, for your mountain adventure we lay out the best tips on how you can acclimate quicker.

As a company based in the high elevations of Colorado, we have over ten years of experience and research on acclimating.

Here's 7 Tips On How You Can Acclimate Quicker:

1. Ascend Slowly

Rapid ascents can only increase risks and further take a toll on your body. Allow your body time to adjust by slowly and gradually increasing your elevation.

For example, when visiting Colorado the optimal plan is to stay a night or two in Denver (at 5,280 feet), and proceed to places in the mountains such as Aspen that jumps to 7,908 feet high.

2. Maximize Hydration

Most people are dehydrated at higher-altitude destinations with dry air. Part of this is due to increase respiration, and it's actually estimated you can lose fluids twice as fast at high elevations than at sea level.⁷

Like in Colorado, visitors need to drink more water than they think. Experts commonly recommend drinking at least half your body weight in water per day.

TIP: You can maximize your hydration by adding sea salt (containing electrolytes) to your food/drink, and taking Zaca's hydration chewables to enhance water absorption.

3. Take Breaks Often

Increased heart rate or difficulty breathing are some signs of your body trying to adapt at high altitudes. In these cases, you should take breaks often to give your body a chance to rest and recover.

Even 5 minute breaks to sit down can make a big difference throughout your day. With the high altitudes being a strain, this will help your body keep up.

4. Limit Strenuous Activity

Any strenuous activity will make it harder to acclimate. When visiting the mountains it's common to be hiking, skiing, and exploring the beautiful landscapes, but you'll want to limit those activities in the beginning.
Give your body at least a day or two of showing no signs of altitude sickness before adding any strenuous activities.

5. Sleep Well

Without quality sleep, acclimation is going to be very hard. High altitudes will actually make it hard to sleep, but sleep is a key ingredient to recovery and can even help blood flow and oxygen.⁸

Ensure you get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Also, maximize the natural sunlight you get during the day, which can actually help boost melatonin production at night.

6. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol can contribute to dehydration and lead to issues such as lowered sleep quality and blood oxygen saturation.⁹ This can put additional stress on the body on top of the potential mountain sickness, with similar outcomes like fatigue and headache.

It's best to avoid alcohol consumption during the initial days at higher elevations. It's most optimal to wait until you feel acclimated to have drinks.

7. Take Antioxidants

It was proven in a study that high elevations can actually deplete glutathione, which is your body's master antioxidant.¹¹ It's also been shown that these high elevations increase oxidative stress.¹⁰

Taking antioxidant supplements, like glutathione, is a solution to help replenish your levels and fortify your body's ability to fight free radical damage.¹²

By incorporating these seven tips into your high-altitude journey, you can help your body's ability to adapt quicker. These steps to take include ascending slowly, maximizing hydration, taking breaks often, limiting strenuous activity, sleeping well, avoiding alcohol, and taking antioxidants.

Now that you know how long does it take to acclimate to elevation and how to acclimate faster, you can enjoy a smoother and more comfortable trip!

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1. FitForTravel - Altitude and Travel
2. Outdoor Action Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses
3. How Much Do You Know About Altitude Acclimatization?
4. How To Acclimatize To High Altitude
5. Into Thin Air: The Science of Altitude Acclimation
6. What To Expect When Moving To A Higher Elevation
7. Why Do You Need to Drink a Lot of Water at a High Altitude?
8. Sleep: The Secret Ingredient of Injury Recovery
9. Effects of Alcohol
10. High altitude and oxidative stress
11. Effect of high altitude (7,620 m) exposure on glutathione
12. Oxidative Stress and Diseases Associated with High-Altitude Exposure