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Exercise May Help Female Astronauts Stay Strong

NASA study shows that short, intense bouts help maintain strength

MONDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) A study aimed at understanding the health of female astronauts finds that even short, intense exercise sessions can help women on bed rest recuperate more quickly.

The study -- sponsored by NASA and a number of space agencies from other nations -- may lead to improved methods of combating strength and muscle loss in female astronauts on long-duration space trips.

Researchers at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., studied 24 women who spent 60 days on bed rest. They reclined with their heads pointed downward at a six-degree angle -- to simulate the weightless conditions of space.

The women were divided into three groups. One group was put on a high-protein diet rich with an amino acid called leucine, another group was put on an exercise regimen that included a 40- to 50-minute aerobic workouts two or three times a week and 20-minute strength training sessions two or three days a week. The third (control) group had no special dietary or exercise programs.

"When we looked at these women after two months, the difference in physical condition among the three groups was undeniable. The women who did not exercise lost nearly half their strength in some cases. What's more, the group who ate a high-protein diet but did not exercise lost even more muscle mass than the control group," Scott Trappe, director of Ball State's Human Performance Lab, said in a prepared statement.

"Until we completed this study, we had no solid research on how women would adapt to long durations in space. This information should have a dramatic impact for NASA in the coming years," Trappe said.

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.

More information

ThinkQuest has more about the effects of space travel on the human body.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: NASA, news release, Nov. 15, 2007

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