Physical activity in space
Exercising in space is not only possible – it’s essential! Despite their busy schedules, astronauts exercise nearly two hours a day on the International Space Station. In the absence of the effects of gravity, if you don’t do anything about it, very quickly, our muscles get very weak, and even our bones start to dissolve away. Why? Because everything is so lightweight here, there is no real need to be strong for daily life on orbit. But we know that we will come back to Earth one day… …so for that you can maintain your strength. Exercising in orbit is quite different from exercising on Earth. In the space gym, there are three pieces of exercise equipment: We can do stationary bicycle on orbit. That’s pretty similar to doing a stationary bicycle ride on Earth, except you don’t have a saddle to sit on. You just wear a belt to keep you from floating away, and we have clips on the shoes. There is also the treadmill. The trick there, of course, is to wear a harness with bungees that keep us kind of cinched down to the treadmill, and that way we can run and remember how to walk, basically, when we come back, and also helps loading our spine and our bones. And then we have this machine, this contraption ARED, to do basically the rest of our exercise to maintain our strength and all our muscles. So we can’t use dumbbells, of course, in orbit – we work in zero gravity – so we use this machine that basically uses the principle of suction inside a vacuum piston. And that’s how we can exercise. After a long, hard workout, astronauts can feel sore, too! The feeling of exercise on orbit is really similar to exercising on Earth. You warm up, you stretch, and you increase the load, and if you overdo it, yeah it kind of hurts and it’s the same, the same feeling than exercising on Earth. The exercise routine is prepared and adjusted by specialized trainers throughout the mission.