The Astronaut-Athlete: Optimizing Human Performance in Space

Kyle J. Hackney, Jessica M. Scott, Andrea M. Hanson, Kirk L. English, Meghan E. Downs, Lori L. Ploutz-Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is well known that long-duration spaceflight results in deconditioning of neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems, leading to a decline in physical fitness. On reloading in gravitational environments, reduced fitness (e.g., aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and endurance) could impair human performance, mission success, and crew safety. The level of fitness necessary for the performance of routine and off-nominal terrestrial mission tasks remains an unanswered and pressing question for scientists and flight physicians. To mitigate fitness loss during spaceflight, resistance and aerobic exercise are the most effective countermeasure available to astronauts. Currently, 2.5 h·d-1, 6-7 d·wk-1 is allotted in crew schedules for exercise to be performed on highly specialized hardware on the International Space Station (ISS). Exercise hardware provides up to 273 kg of loading capability for resistance exercise, treadmill speeds between 0.44 and 5.5 m·s-1, and cycle workloads from 0 and 350 W. Compared to ISS missions, future missions beyond low earth orbit will likely be accomplished with less vehicle volume and power allocated for exercise hardware. Concomitant factors, such as diet and age, will also affect the physiologic responses to exercise training (e.g., anabolic resistance) in the space environment. Research into the potential optimization of exercise countermeasures through use of dietary supplementation, and pharmaceuticals may assist in reducing physiological deconditioning during long-duration spaceflight and have the potential to enhance performance of occupationally related astronaut tasks (e.g., extravehicular activity, habitat construction, equipment repairs, planetary exploration, and emergency response).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3531-3545
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of strength and conditioning research
Volume29
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

Keywords

  • aging
  • dietary supplementation
  • exercise countermeasures
  • pharmaceuticals
  • spaceflight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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  • Cite this

    Hackney, K. J., Scott, J. M., Hanson, A. M., English, K. L., Downs, M. E., & Ploutz-Snyder, L. L. (2015). The Astronaut-Athlete: Optimizing Human Performance in Space. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 29(12), 3531-3545. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001191