WHY ASTRONAUTS HAVE TO EXERCISE IN SPACE STATION?
Being an astronaut can be really adventurous, fun and cool but it isn’t that easy as we think, is it? To be an astronaut, it requires three years of intense professional experience in their respective field, may it be Physics or Astronomy or Biological Sciences Or Maths or at least 1,000 hours experience of working as a pilot in command of jet airplanes. So it isn’t that easy. Also one has to learn Russian to be an astronaut. But once one gets into that it’s a life full of adventures and explorations.
We human beings have lived here on the earth for millenia ,so our body is acquainted with its environment and atmosphere, but once we get into space, our body suddenly faces a new challenge to cope with: microgravity. While orbiting around the earth in their space stations or ISS(International Space Station),the astronauts have to cope with microgravity which offers a totally new challenge to them physically.
Astronaut Peggy A. Whitson exercises on the Space Station in 2002. Credit: NASA
Generally the working hours of an astronaut is from 6am to 9pm GMT(Greenwich Mean Time).They have three meals in a day and at least 2.5 hours of exercise to maintain muscle tones and fitness. The biggest worry to face in microgravity is that it causes bone and muscle loss. When we are on earth, we have to work against gravity to get something .During that working period, our body does some exercise which keeps the bones and muscles fine-tuned. But in space lack of gravity means we don’t have put that much effort that we do earth to get something. We can just like float from one place to other easily.Well this causes damage to our bones(Osteoporosis) and muscles resulting in loss of mineral density and increasing risk of atrophying(Organ or tissue wasted away due to degeneration of cells or become vestigal during evolution).During this period their entire bones don’t bear any weight causing skeletal unloading, in which the bones lose the ability to create new bone cells and replace the new ones.
So to prevent inactivity, the astronauts work out on various instruments like TVIS(Treadmill Vibration Isolation System) which is kind of a treadmill that we have here on earth but here the astronauts have to wear a harness and attach themselves to the machine ,or else their feet will push the treadmill away from them. Other devices are CEVIS(Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation System) and RED(Resistive Exercise Device) both of which help build muscles in the body and also prevent muscle atrophy.
So once the astronauts get back to earth, they have to go through a rehab program to strengthen their muscles and bones. In the first few days after returning to earth’s gravity they feel a bit dizzy but their body again gets readjusted in a few days.