Here’s how astronauts exercise in space without gravity

Living in space for an extended period of time isn’t ideal for the human body. An absence of gravity in space leads to a loss of bone density and the risk of muscle atrophy. Therefore, astronauts who reside in the International Space Station (ISS) need a workout regimen to offset those effects. While in space astronauts are required to exercise two hours a day, six days a week. 

NASA Commentator Lori Meggs spoke with Gail Perusek of NASA’s Exercise Countermeasures Lab to discuss how the ISS crew stays healthy in space. Typical resistance and aerobic exercises you see on Earth are still essential, but they do require a few upgrades to work without gravity. 

Astronauts use a weight lifting machine called an Advanced Resistive Exercise Device or ARED. Dumbbells don’t work in space because without gravity they don’t weigh anything. Instead, an ARED uses canisters to create tiny vacuums that the crew can pull on with a long bar. Astronauts are able to do squats, bench presses and deadlifts this way. 

Meanwhile, the space station’s treadmill requires crew members to use harnesses and bungee cords to prevent them from floating away. ISS also has a stationary bike with no seat (since you can’t actually sit down). Astronauts sit up against a back pad to stay in place, then grip handles as they pedal. 

“We’re definitely learning more about the optimal regimen, the optimal equipment,” Perusek said in the video. “The ARED, the new Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, which was flown on station in 2008 provides a 600-pound resistive force and the previous IRED, Interim Resistive Exercise Device, was limited to 300 pounds. Since the ARED has flown we’ve seen crew members come back healthier than ever.”

If you enjoyed this story, read why women may be better suited for space travel.

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