Astronauts of the future will have to do a lot more than simply pedalling an exercise bike to stay healthy in space.
University of Queensland, Australia, research shows more weight bearing and resistance exercises, should stop astronauts returning to earth with sore backs and hips when they readjust to gravity.
A UQ team in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA), has been investigating ways to work the stabilising muscles around the pelvis and maintain bone density in space.
Physiotherapy Masters student Alison Grimaldi has been comparing hip scans of “terrestrial astronauts” from an ESA bedrest study with other patients with sore hips.
The space study participants will be monitored after spending eight weeks lying in bed to mimic a weightlessness environment.
They were not allowed to get up – even eating meals, taking showers and having medical check-ups from the bed.
Mrs Grimaldi predicts that the loss of gravitational force weakens the muscles involved in joint protection and posture.
“The sort of exercise programs that they’re doing up in space are just facilitating those more superficial muscles without facilitating the deep joint muscles,” Mrs Grimaldi said.
“Some of the programs could actually be detrimental, because they’re strengthening superficial muscles and we need to get the deeper muscles working.”
Mrs Grimaldi’s supervisor, Associate Professor Carolyn Richardson, said there had been countless studies on astronauts legs but their hips and pelvis had been neglected.
“The astronauts are aware they get back pain but no one else is,” Dr Richardson said.
One of the new exercises would involve astronauts lying on their back in a weight bearing machine and pushing out against a footplate to work their hip and back.
Mrs Grimaldi needs Brisbane volunteers who have one sore hip but who have not had previous surgery or trauma to the back, pelvis or hip.
People aged between 40 and 70 who have had no lower back or hip pain are also needed.
For more information or if you can volunteer, contact Mrs Grimaldi (phone: +61 07 3342 4284, email: [email protected]), Dr Richardson (telephone: +61 7 3365 2209, email: [email protected]) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (telephone: +61 7 3365 2619, email: [email protected])