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Trying to Get in Shape? Work Out Like an Astronaut

posted: 05/20/15
by: Danny Clemens
I Sprint For Exercise: NASA’s iRAT Study
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A NASA test subject exercises on a vertical treadmill at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
NASA

If you find it difficult to exercise on Earth, imagine what it's like to work out in space -- astronauts are battling a lack of gravity, which frequently causes muscle atrophy, bone density loss and decreased cardiovascular conditioning.

NASA's Human Research Program is continuously looking into ways to improve astronauts' fitness in the cosmos. The agency recently launched the Integrated Resistance Aerobic Training study (iRAT), which requires current residents of the International Space Station are required to perform cardio and strength training exercises six days a week for two and a half hours each day.

"The theory was that a more stringent regimen of resistance training and interval aerobic exercise would help the astronauts stay fit while on the space station," said principle investigator Dr. Lori Ploutz-Snyder. "This is of particular importance to future crews who travel to Mars."

In addition to observing the astronauts in space, researchers also observed a test group of study participants on Earth. Study participants had to exercise in a six-degree head-down tilt to simulate the fluid shifts that occur in the body during spaceflight.

NASA conducted a similar study last year, which produced a very specific formula to help astronauts maintain their fitness in space. In addition to eating a controlled diet of 55 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, and 15 percent protein, all participants performed three days of weight training per week and six days of aerobic training.

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