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New study to help understand physical changes that astronauts experience in space and the impacts of inactivity

YouTube video - Understanding the health impacts of inactivity. (Credit: Canadian Institutes of Health Research)

Space is hard on the body. In fact, microgravity has such a strong impact on the human body that a parallel can be drawn between astronauts in space and people who lead a sedentary lifestyle on Earth. That is why the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is collaborating with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) in a new study on the health impacts of inactivity.

The study will explore preventive methods that could help decrease astronauts' health risks associated with space missions and prevent age-associated health conditions on Earth. The participants, aged 55 to 65, will be bedridden for 14 days while tilted head down at a six-degree angle. Half of them will do 60 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) per day, combined with lower intensity aerobic and resistive exercises. The other half will receive daily physiotherapy. By comparing the two groups, scientists will better understand how HIIT might mitigate the adverse effects of inactivity on older adults and astronauts, and how it might accelerate the recovery of functional mobility. Data collection will start in at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal with eight teams of researchers.

This research is increasingly relevant as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars, where they will be at higher risk of adverse health effects. Studying the human body in space for six months gives us data that would take years to gather on Earth. New information gained in space contributes to improved quality of life on Earth. By studying how astronauts adapt to microgravity, scientists can advance our knowledge on ageing, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, and even the psychological effects of isolation.

The partnership behind the study

The CSA is responsible for the study's experimental facility, including recruiting participants, medically supervising the participants, and acquiring the standard measures. CIHR and CFN are funding eight scientific teams, which will conduct in-depth analysis of the effects of the countermeasure.

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