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Solving Space: Space Cardio

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This summer, we are exploring how we push human extremes in order to survive and thrive in the harsh environments of space. Exercise can be extreme on Earth, but astronauts take it to the next level in zero gravity.

What does a cosmic cardio workout look like? Surprisingly, not much different from those conducted on Earth.

However, it is even more important for astronauts to get their workout in, and skipping really isn’t an option. In space, muscles atrophy and bones lose density, so it is of critical importance that astronauts make time to exercise in orbit. In fact, they workout roughly 2.5 hours a day six days a week to stay fit in zero gravity.

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) use treadmills to keep fit during their long duration spaceflight missions, much like gym-goers on the ground do to stay healthy.

There are two treadmills on station – the Treadmill Vibration Isolation System (TVIS) and the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT), named after famed late-night television comedian Stephen Colbert.

Astronauts get their heart rates pumping on these treadmills each day for one hour of their total exercise regimen! It is one of the best ways to keep astronauts’ muscles and bones in good shape.

Look at these fun facts about exercising in microgravity from NASA:

  • An astronaut’s muscle mass can be reduced by 20-40% during long duration spaceflight missions.
  • Astronauts can lose the same amount of hip bone mass in a month as a woman over 50 can lose in a year.
  • Exercise does more than keep astronauts in shape physically. It also helps with their sense of wellbeing.

Want to learn more about exercising in space? Click here to read up on running in space or here to learn about weightlifting in zero gravity.

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