When you think of astronauts you may picture the moon landing or you might start craving a cold glass of Tang, but you probably don’t think much about fitness. The fact is that resistance training is vital for helping astronauts avoid muscle atrophy, according to NSBRI. Books such as “Discovering Biological Psychology” by Laura Freberg and “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach reveal that astronauts coming back from a short visit (as little as six months) to a space station have up to 20 percent less bone than they had when they left the earth, and it takes just two weeks in outer space to lose up to 20 percent of their muscle mass — the equivalent effects of aging to 80 years old. (!)
Those are dangerous conditions for a body, as weak muscles and bones are more susceptible to injury and contribute to fatigue. NASA knows this, and sponsored research to determine how to best minimize the effects of zero gravity on their astronauts, according to Science Daily. As a result, more intense resistance training was recommended to maintain and increase muscle mass and improve bone density as part of outer space fitness.
The Issue of Tissue
When you take away the gravity factor, the stress on your muscles and bones is vastly reduced, leading to tissue loss first of muscle and, eventually, loss of bone density. Gravity here on earth helps work your muscles. It’s what makes body-weight exercises effective, and resistance training with equipment even more effective. Gravity pulls the weight of your body or the equipment down and, as you work against gravity, it turns the activity into a resistance exercise. Building muscle mass helps to maintain and even improve bone density. The Mayo Clinic reveals that resistance training puts stress on your bones which encourages them to build more tissue and increase density.
Problems With Working Out in Zero Gravity
OK, so astronauts need more intense workouts to keep from losing their muscle mass and bone density when they’re in space, but there’s a problem with traditional resistance training: zero gravity means that a 50 pound dumbbell doesn’t weigh anything, so traditional free weights aren’t effective for resistance training in outer space.
TargitFit Trainer to the Rescue
Because the usual weightlifting equipment isn’t an option, NASA has had to be creative in providing alternatives for resistance training in outer space, such as experimenting with equipment that uses pistons for resistance. Then in 2012, while working with the Mars mission simulator, NASA stumbled upon the TargitFit Trainer and added it to their simulator training protocol. NASA has used band resistance machines in the past, according to PC Mag, because resistance from bands remains constant even in zero gravity, but the TargitFit Trainer is much smaller in size than most workout equipment with the same capabilities. At only 42 pounds, it’s far lighter, too, meaning it won’t significantly add to the weight of shuttles, rockets and other space vehicles. The size and weight are just the icing on the TargitFit cake. With over 115 club-quality exercises and up to over 400 pounds of resistance, the TargitFit Trainer is more than equipped for getting and keeping anyone in shape — on or off the planet.