Being an astronaut is a cool experience; you get to go to space and live aboard the International Space Station. You can also float around weightlessly and enjoy the spectacular view of the earth.
However, to live in space, astronauts have to sacrifice some pleasures found on earth. For example, astronauts in the ISS have to come up with creative ways of eating food, drinking water, going to the bathroom and even exercising.
These activities are quite complicated because there is no gravity. Maintaining fitness in space is the most difficult of these tasks because exercising in zero gravity is almost impossible.
Why do astronauts need to exercise?
To understand how astronauts exercise in space, it is important that you first know the reason why they do so. The effects of the zero gravity in space are not limited to just activities that astronauts perform; it also has a huge impact on the body.
Activities such as walking or standing do not require any effort because there is no gravity to exert pressure on the body. Therefore, the heart does not work as much in space as it does back here on earth.
As a result, the astronauts start experiencing bone and muscle loss. According to studies, astronauts can suffer from approximately 2% bone density and muscle tissue loss for every month they spend in space. This rate of muscle and bone loss is quite high, and it can become serious during long space missions.
So, how do astronauts Maintain fitness in space?
The importance of exercise in space cannot be overstated, which is why astronauts are required to exercise daily. According to a number of space news sources, NASA astronauts spend at least 2 hours a day exercising.
The techniques and equipment that astronauts use to exercise in space are different from those used on earth. This is because most of the exercise gear on earth is pretty much useless in a zero gravity environment.
For example, it would be impossible to play ball games in space due to the small, confined space of the International Space Station. Kicking or throwing a ball in the ISS is not allowed because such solid objects could easily become hazardous. And if you think weightlifting would be a good option, lifting heavy weights (even 200 pounds) in space is a piece of cake.
Therefore, astronauts use modified equipment that is designed specifically for a zero gravity environment. For example, NASA astronauts use a space treadmill for running, a stationary bike for exercising the legs and lower body parts, and a weight lifting stimulation device. Using these techniques and equipment helps them maintain fitness in space, thus reducing the risk of bone and muscle loss.
In a microgravity environment, astronauts are at a great risk of losing bone density and muscle tissues. In a prolonged situation, this loss can even affect vital organs such as the heart. Therefore, astronauts must exercise regularly in order to keep their fitness in space, especially when they are on long missions – And with upcoming long-duration missions to Mars on the horizon, keeping fit in space will be a growing concern.