The University of Barcelona participates in the European project A-fit (Astronaut Exercise Prescriptions Promoting Health and Fitness on Earth), coordinated by the Karolinska Institute (Sweden). It aims at designing a fitness programme to avoid muscle atrophy associated to microgravity. Its results will contribute to the understanding of the beneficial effects of exercise in order to combat the effects of long-term muscle disuse. Findings may be also applied to other research areas, for instance, those diseases characterized by muscular dysfunction.
The Faculty of Medicine of UB and the National Institute for Physical Education of Catalonia (INEFC), affiliated centre with UB, hosts on 19 and 20 December the first meeting of the project. The results got to date will be exposed and next actions will be established.
The daily routines of astronauts on board of the International Space Station (ISS) include a fitness programme to fight against muscle atrophy, the loss of bone mass and cardiovascular dysfunction, which are all caused by long-term microgravity exposure. Although there is not much space on ISS, it is necessary to have some equipment to practise aerobic and resistance exercise. Equipment must be enough effective to keep a good physical condition. Besides being compact, equipment must adapt to space flight. The importance of the project A-fit relies on the non-existence of any exercise programme that suits these requirements or scientific study on physical exercise for astronauts.
The team led by Professor Roser Cussó, from the Department of Physiological Sciences I, participates in the project. The team is developing biochemistry studies to determine the effects of muscle disuse on energy metabolism. Furthermore, it has carried out some experiments in which volunteers have one leg immobilized and practice some aerobic and resistance exercises. First results suggest that intense aerobic exercise may alter the molecular mechanisms that regulate the balance between protein synthesis and degradation during the recovery period with takes place just after resistance exercise.
Besides establishing exercise prescriptions for space travellers, the research programme aims at applying its results to daily life situations together with the European industry.
Apart from UB and the Karolinska Institute, other partners of the project are: östersund Rehabilitation Center, the Karolinska University Hospital (Sweden), Umeå University (Sweden), the University of Verona (Italy), the University of Copenhaguen (Denmark) and YoYo Technology, a company specialised in developing space fitness technology.