New research may help protect astronauts' bones

August 27, 2012

Topic: Orthopaedics

Intense exercise regimens may help protect the bones of astronauts.

Among the most common health problems that astronauts have to deal with are orthopaedics issues, such as osteoporosis. According to experts, space explorers lose between 1 and 2 percent of bone density during long-duration missions. By comparison, it takes senior citizens about a year to lose this same amount of bone mass.

However, new research from NASA's Johnson Space Center demonstrates that an exercise regimen that is more vigorous that what is currently available may help protect the bones of astronauts from osteoporosis.

Compared to the current exercise regimens, the new Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), installed in the International Space Station in 2008, doubled the maximum amount of available force on the resistance machines to as much as 600 pounds.

Astronauts who used the ARED system in 2008 had stronger bones compared to those who exercised on the older, less vigorous platform in 2006, according to the scientists. Consumption of a sufficient amount of vitamin D and calories also had a protective effect.

"These data will be critical in enabling us to send humans, once again, to destinations beyond low Earth orbit," said researcher Scott Smith.

The study is published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

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