How do you raise your fitness level without moving a muscle? Try sleeping in an ingenious bedchamber invented by chemical engineer Igor Gamow of the University of Colorado. The fiberglass "high-altitude" compartment, 31 inches in diameter, has a pump that lowers the air pressure enough to simulate altitudes of up to 18,000 feet.
The body produces more blood cells at high altitudes, making it easier to run marathons or climb mountains. Studies in France and Japan show this occurs when people are at high altitudes for as little as four hours a day. So, some athletes train at sea level, where higher oxygen levels permit a more intense workout, then drive up nearby mountains at night.
With Gamow's invention, they won't have to commute. They train at sea level, then sleep at "high altitude"--not to get acclimatized but merely to stimulate the body to make more EPO, the hormone that causes blood-cell production. Gamow plans to market the $8,000-to-$10,000 chamber this fall--equipped, he says, with a custom mattress, a pillow, and "beautiful red sheets."