CBS’s blog Tech Talk is carrying a post by William Harwood titled Long Missions Found to Sap Astronauts’ Strength about NASA’s new exercise machine, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device and how it might solve the problem of space turning astronauts into octogenarians during long stays in space. In a paper published this week the Journal of Physiology by Robert Fitts of Marquette University suggests the reduction in the capacity for work after six months in space can exceed 40 percent, which would temporarily reduce the performance of a returning astronaut to that of an 80-year-old. The study suggests more effective exercise techniques are required to keep astronauts in shape during long missions.
Fitts said bed-rest studies show resistive exercise can offset the decline. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station typically spend 45 minutes to an hour or so every day actually exercising, either pedaling a stationary bike, jogging on a treadmill, held down by a harness, or using resistive devices. Counting preparation time, crew members devote two hours a day to getting the required exercise done.
The ARED, one of the latest exercise machines aboard the station, works like a high-tech gym to permit effective weightlifting with up to 600 pounds of load, using flywheels to simulate the inertia weight lifters must overcome.
But Fitts makes it clear that while ARED might help, there’s yet no data to back up that conclusion. With astronauts using ARED aboard the ISS, that is about to change. Lori Ploutz-Snyder, a scientist with NASA’s exercise countermeasures project at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said a new study using the space station’s Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED, will collect some of the data Fitts says is needed.