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January 4th, 2010:

Exercise at the Hab

exerciseOne important aspect of any human mission to Mars will be exercise. The trip to Mars will likely take a toll in terms of bone mass loss (spaceflight osteopenia) and muscle atrophy, despite our best efforts to counter these adverse effects. (In microgravity, neither nutritional supplements nor exercise nor hormones nor anything else has yet been proven to solve this problem.) On reaching Mars, the human crew will be weaker and more prone to broken bones than they were when they left Earth. In some respects, the reduced gravity on Mars (1/3 that of Earth’s) will make the adaptation back to a gravity environment easier. However, the reduced gravity is likely to allow for continued bone loss and muscle atrophy, unless the crew is diligent with an exercise regimen. (Exercise tends to be more effective in a stronger gravity field, since walking, jumping, and running result in stronger impacts to the body, stimulating bone and muscle growth.) While EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities) provide some opportunity for physical exercise, and certainly can be strenuous in very specific ways, they are unlikely to provide a full-body cardiovascular workout.

So our crew got thinking: what can we do in the way of exercise inside the Hab? We sought to satisfy multiple goals: daily exercise, without impacting our already busy schedule, in a space too small for all six to participate at once, and with enough variety to keep us engaged and motivated. We’ll aim for two exercise sessions per day, accommodating three of us at a time. Luís has volunteered to teach us kickboxing and capoeira. My Jazzercise instructor has offered to loan us an instructional video. In general, I expect that we’ll have a lot of fun with our exercise, and learn new things at the same time!

If you have any suggestions about other exercise ideas, please share in the comments (link at top of post).