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Author(s): Joanne R. Lupton, PhD
Showing Results for: astronauts Return to Presentation

SPACE CYCLE: A Human-Powered Centrifuge and Hypergravity Exercise Gym

A bike-like centrifuge that creates artificial gravity may help astronauts combat several physiological problems encountered by individuals spending time space. This research program still is in its infant stages, and while some early findings appear to be promising in terms of maintaining human health and fitness, a lot of additional research needs to be accomplished. As shown in this picture, one feature of artificial gravity is that it provides a form of physical stress in that it can load skeletal muscle. Also, it provides significant challenges to the cardiovascular system because it puts a stress on the heart and blood vessels for delivering blood to the various organ systems. An additional feature of the gravity stimulus is that it imposes a challenge on the sensory motor system, which is critical in establishing fidelity of movement. Therefore, since gravity controls a major component of the various organ components that intimately influence function of the entire organism, it is proposed that this form of exercise, that specifically imposes gravity stimulus of varying magnitude, may hold the key to counteracting all the key imbalances to performance of the various organ systems during long-term spaceflight.

Do you think that the space cycle can be an effective device for improving the fitness of a person based on what has been described above? Do you think that this device can play a role for helping individuals to be healthier and fitter on Earth?

Suggested Reading:
Yang, Y, Kaplan, A., Pierre, M., Adams, G., Cavanagh, P., Takahashi, C., Kreitenberg, A., Hicks, J., Keyak, J., & Caiozzo, V. (2007 )Space Cycle: A Human Powered Centrifuge That Can Be Used for Hypergravity Resistance training. Aviation Space Environmental Medicine 78: pp. 2-9.

I want to say a few words about the space cycle, because we think that this is an item or a modality that speaks to the issue of hitting several birds with one shot. What you see is that by using this artificial gravity stimulus, we can load the muscle and bone. And we can provide a gravitational challenge to the total body, because the total body is impacted. Just about all the organ systems are affected by the lack of gravity. In particular, the case where we are putting stress on the cardiovascular system through this hypergravity stimulus highlights one of the biggest problems that astronauts experience when they go into space. That is when they return from space travel, they are in what we call a hypo-tensive state, where they cannot maintain a normal blood pressure and they are very sensitive to changes in posture. In fact, one astronaut who returned recently from space, when giving an interview, actually passed out twice while on the podium trying to say what a great experience it was to go into space. But it is not a great experience coming back, because you have to recondition the system. But what about conditions on earth? Does the science that we are using to make headway in studying problems in space have an impact in some way on Earth? The answer is definitely yes.