5 Things You Need to Know Before Packing Your Bags to Space!

 Fri, 21st Jan, 2022

Astronauts are prepared… but are you?

Gravity is the force that keeps us rooted on Earth and is a key determinant of physiological health.

In space, astronauts experience microgravity – they still have mass but no weight and that’s why they appear to be floating!

  • On arrival in space, microgravity causes an immediate shift of body fluid towards the head and chest, away from the legs, causing swelling. This is described anecdotally as the “puffy face-bird leg” syndrome. Increased filling of the heart and central circulation will stimulate the volume receptors (baroreceptors) and trigger neuroendocrine and fluid and electrolyte-regulating mechanisms, leading to decreases in plasma volume and red cell mass and an overall lower blood volume (~10%).
  • As muscles and bones don’t have to support the body’s mass in space, astronauts experience bone loss (through increased bone resorption) and decreases in muscle mass (known as muscle atrophy, due to a reduction in muscle protein synthesis) and muscle strength and power.
  • On Earth, your spine is compressed by gravity. In contrast, the spine is decompressed and can elongate in microgravity. Therefore, astronauts can become taller in space - up to 7cm!! 
  • Changes in muscles (muscle atrophy and altered intrinsic properties and oxidative capabilities of muscle) and the cardiovascular system (decreases in plasma volume and haemoglobin) contribute to the decrease in cardiorespiratory fitness following spaceflight.


The good news… these changes are reversible and astronauts can start to recover once they return to Earth and unpack their bags! 


Why is this relevant to me? 

The physiological changes, specifically in muscles and bones and cardiorespiratory fitness, are similar to those induced by too much sitting or lying (sedentary behaviour) on Earth, but occur at a slower rate than observed in space. 


How can I counteract this?

Join our True Fitness multi-modal exercise classes and let us help you counteract your sedentary "pillownaut" behaviour! 


This post was created by Dr Kiera Ward from True Fitness who will be presenting the third 'Minding Me' workshop next Tuesday at 7pm with Dr Diane Cooper as part of the Laois Transformation programme.


Laois Transformation

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Laois Transformation is designed and delivered by True Fitness in partnership with Laois Sports Partnership and funded by Sport Ireland.

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