July 12, 2020

Former NASA Astronaut Explains How Workouts Are Different in Space | WIRED

remember one of my test pilot friends was was really feeling sick but did not want to go to the doctor because you know want to be grounded he finally couldn't take it he collapsed on the way to the doctor's office this is not a good idea kids if

you're sick go see the doctor I'm Mike Massimino and this is how health is different in space I was an astronaut for 18 years I flew in space two times two missions on the space shuttle health is really important for astronauts there are a whole list of things

that can have you become disqualified from going to space typically you want to try to be as healthy as you can and you want to have a healthy heart you want to be as fit as you possibly can you want to eat right and take care of yourself

and if you don't and you fall out of the standards that you're supposed to be within it could mean you're not gonna get a chance to fly in space you don't have to be an Olympic athlete but they want to make sure that you're healthy enough to do

the job which means they don't want to be worried about a medical situation when you're in space if you have a propensity toward kidney stones for example that was a disqualifying thing they don't want you having a kidney stone develop while you're in space a medical situation on

earth is bad enough but in space it's really bad so they want to make sure that people that are putting into space are not going to have a problem once they're in space exercise is important for all of us before I became an astronaut I generally did sports

for recreation and riding my bike for fun or maybe going for a run things like that once I became an astronaut it became a little more structured I felt like I was getting ready for somewhat of an athletic event because space walking did require exertion and you needed

to move around almost constantly and you had to manipulate this suit that you were wearing so the better shape you could be in the better off you were gonna perform I was in the best physical shape of my life before each one of my space flights and that

was I was older I was 39 on my first flight then in 46 on my second flight but I was in better shape than I ever was as a high school athlete or any other time in my life exercise in space is a little bit different because you're

in zero gravity you're floating so it's it's as if you're on bed rest but even worse than that as far as physical conditioning goes you're laying around you're not exerting yourself you're just floating around and even doing things like just walking or even sitting on earth you're fighting

against gravity in space you're floating the whole time so it's no load on your bones or on your muscles and if you don't exercise in space for a prolonged period of time you can lose bone mass and you can lose muscle mass and your heart which is a

muscle it'll shrink and that's not a good thing so the way we prevent these bad things from happening is by exercising weights aren't going to work very well in space you can take an object that weighs 600 pounds and pick it up with one finger because everything's floating

this weightless so you want to be pulling against something for a resistive exercise work out like a spring or something that has some resistance to it was that works just fine in space but actual weights won't there is a two-hour exercise period set up six days a week

for astronauts who are on the space station and it's a combination of cardio which is riding an exercise bike or treadmill the seevis the bike cycle ergometer vibration isolation system the vibration isolation part of it is pretty important when you're working out you can cause vibration and the

advantage that you have on a space station for science is that you're in zero gravity and if you start shaking and vibrating that compromises the microgravity environment you're going to disturb the experiments that are using the the microgravity of the zero-gravity environment for the science but start shaking

it up a little bit you're going to hear about it so these engineers who have developed these machines plug don't get as much credit as they deserve because they are not only keeping astronauts healthy but they're isolating the vibrations associated with doing that sort of work out to

those machines and not spreading it around to compromise the integrity of the zero-gravity experiments onboard but that's the way you can get cardio exercise in space for a resistive exercise advanced resistive exercise device a red which is a pretty high-tech piece of equipment that works on pulleys and

Springs and and you can do a variety of exercises with that you could even do squats you can do leg presses you can do curls you can do bench press and so combining that with the cardio devices you get a pretty good workout we also had Thera bands

these elastic bands that we would use they give you some resistance and we have astronauts coming back in sometimes better shape than they were when they left the way we prevent sickness and space is by putting you the astronaut into a quarantine ahead of time so you're not

bringing germs to space so spacecraft should be perfectly clean there's there should not be bacteria in the spacecraft so what we do is we enter a quarantine period not a week before the flight in your what we call it is health stabilization the only people that are allowed

to be around you have to be screened and approved by the flight surgeon there was an age limit that changed for kids to be around you my first flight my children were too young to be near me my second flight they were both teenagers so they were able

to come visit me food poisoning is probably not gonna be happen because that's all control the what goes on board your water is clean water if I think we could treat it as well with iodine if needed iodine leaves a certain taste so there was a another filtration

system we had to remove the iodine out of the water so they really want to make sure you water was clean so you're in a pretty much a germ-free environment on earth when you're not feeling well you can go to the doctor you have somebody try might take

care of it yourself in some ways it's some medicine or aspirin or whatever you have available to you but eventually if you're feeling sick you can you can go to doctor and get checked when you apply to be an astronaut if you if you get far enough along

in the selection process that you're a finalist and typically there's about a hundred hundred and twenty finalists for each astronaut class and then they'll pick however many they need your selection interview is not just an interview but it's also a lot of medical exams and you get checked

out pretty much from top to bottom it's a really extensive medical exam that you go through that takes a few days and they'll check you out and make sure that you're you're healthy I still go for an annual physical every year as part of like a long-range health

data collection that NASA does but in space your medical care is a little bit different we had a full set of medicine in our medical kit for just about every kind of ailment imaginable and we had to make sure we didn't have any allergic reactions to those medicines

so we got a drug testing kit we were supposed to take one of these they would tell you how many is supposed to take in every day pretty much we tested something different where there's an antibiotic or sleep medicine or a painkiller or whatever it was we always

had someone who is our main medical officer on the flight sometimes that was a doctor I never flew with an MD I did fly would have it in a veterinarian and he became a medical doctor but someone needs to work on that person as well so they have

another person who is kind of like the assistant so you always have at least two or sometimes three people who were trained to be medical officers we get CPR training we get basic first-aid so we can help each other that way but some of us get the more

extensive medical officer training which is kind of like the equivalent to being an EMT you also are in close contact with the flight surgeon so flight surgeons are medical doctors who have the special certification that allows them to deal with aviation space medical issues are flight surgeons also

aware of things can happen in zero gravity and the ill effects of zero gravity them in bone loss and muscle loss in other issues that might arise because of the spacesuit causing of injuries and so on for the job we have so if you have a problem in

space there is a first-aid kit there's a medical kit that you can do basic things with you can do things like suture open cut if needed surgery is a bit of a problem I think at first in the space station program they thought that they would be able

to do surgeries it really is not practical to be able to do any major invasive operation if someone needed something like that they would do orbit them and bring them home it's easier to do that take care of that on earth that's not going to be the case

when we go further away from the planet we're going to be happy to you can't fly people back from Mars that easily you're gonna have to be able to deal with things and on route or once you get to that new place so right now the luxury of

being close to the ground helps with a lot of major medical limits we've never had anything that we've had to do that for we've never had to do or 'but for a medical issue if you need help from the ground on the space station on the space shuttle

we were able to call the ground and and see if there was a there was help motion sickness happens to most people it happened to me in my first day in space I didn't feel very well it's a it's a conflict between our vestibular system and/or eyesight that

conflict can lead to a little bit of stomach awareness you're moving around the cabin let's say with your eyes but your interviewers telling you you're perfectly still and it does not feel good I was not used to it my first day in space of course and I ended

up throwing up at the end of the day then the next day I was flying and on my second flight I was fine you brain doesn't know what's going on at first and it reacts a certain way but then it learns and you don't have a problem so

it's an adaptation as opposed to a real sickness how do you throw up if you get sick in space who the sun's starting to come up so here's an astronaut barf bag right here puking works just like it does on earth and that stuff will come out of

your mouth right from your stomach like a projectile now the difference is that if you do that on earth it's probably going to land somewhere in space it's gonna come out and float around which is not a good situation they'll get everybody sick so we want to use

our vomit bag we have really good vomit bags emesis bags is what they call I guess emesis is a fancy word for vomit you had vomit into those and it they're really well made they're cloth on the outside plastic on the inside so everything will go inside of

this bag and then once you're done you can seal it off rolling up compact it and get another one ready I was very concerned about this in my first flight I had two on me all the time that that first day my after the first day I was

fine I didn't need one but you want them handy when you first get to space I think in everyday life we realized the importance of mental health and trying to keep ourselves mentally healthy and NASA is the same way so it was always help available if you needed

to speak to someone about whatever issue you might be having and they were very open to that it was just like anything else if you had a if you were sick you went to go see the doctor and if you weren't feeling well and felt that you needed

to speak to a mental health professional that was available for you as well and you were expected to go see one if you weren't feeling well so they were very open to that and it was very important and and I appreciated that I think most of us did

in space I think what NASA has realized over the years in particular for long-duration flights or even short flights there could be some extra mental stressors put on the astronauts it could be stressful you're worried about your your physical well-being so there's stress associated with that also performance

of your job you want to do a good job and you might feel the pressure that way to also you're away from home you might not get as much sleep as you like it's a new environment there may be family issues happening all these things might be happening

that could also affect your performance we have a whole program associated with what we call psychological support and psychological support is there to help astronauts feel good and that all involves contact with home so we have email we have a capability of calling or our family and friends

from space through an Internet Protocol phone the possibility to Skype with your family is there as well keeping in contact with earth is really important for psychological support it's not just being nice but it's also – for performance a happy crew member is a productive crew member what

I've seen come though sometimes is that a an event happens on earth we had a crew on board space station when we had the Columbia accident and we needed to get the word up to those guys that we had this accident in and the crew was lost then

the accident was a time where mental health was really stressed in fact it was required that all of us go check in with the psychiatrist when a traumatic event like that happens like a loss of life bad news happened on earth for directly affecting the personal life of

the crew member in space that's when you sometimes need some psychological support right so I think that comes in different forms sometimes it's a crew member a good friend remember the clergy a spouse a brother whoever they try to get that person on the phone so then your

flight is over and you return to earth so once you come back and you land the biggest difference that you'll notice is gravity is kicked back in those changes to your body that occurred because you went to zero gravity and some of those are physical changes they're revert

back to the way it was when gravity is encountered again so some of the physical changes for example is in space our spine grows of it because if our spine is held into place by gravity to some extent and in zero gravity the spinal long gates so my

space walking suit was actually sized an inch and a half higher in the waist to accommodate spinal growth than what I was ordered the space I would wear when I practiced in the pool for my spacewalks if you get a little bit of discomfort in the back when

that happens in space you feel it a little back pain but then it goes away when you come back to earth your spine is settling again immediately so you have to be really careful no abrupt movements with your head we've had some astronauts hurt their backs particularly in

their neck by doing something a quick motion or something like this before things have settled can can hurt themselves I mean I'm supposed to pick up anything your kids are usually the biggest hazard because you want to hold them and pick them up if they're a baby that's

not a problem if they're a teenager they're too big to do that but you know somewhere in between you know you want to be careful with that so lifting things as soon as you get back are an issue because you want your spine to kind of settle where

it's supposed to and the other thing that is a physical change is the fluid in your body in in space when you're in zero gravity tends to pool in your upper extremities what that could mean is when you get back to earth in gravity sets in and the

fluid redistributes you could get lightheaded your blood pressure you go down you could pass out so one of the things we do to help prevent against that before we enter we go through fluid loading where before you enter we have a lots of drink bags and as a

prescription you get based on your body weight of what are you supposed to drink it could be salt tablets with water or is chicken consomme or there was this thing we called astral aid which was kind of like a not really Gatorade but he had to drink a

lot to try to get those bodily fluids there so that when you got back to one gravity you didn't have this bigger orthostatic problem when you tried to stand up bigger issue maybe or the thing that's more prominent is what's going on in your head because now gravity

is there again and that vestibular system that was silent for all those days or however long you were in space is now excited again and it's getting input like crazy in the brain saying what's there like what the heck is that's what's going on here you want to

move slowly I felt like I needed to walk with my legs wide apart because I feel like I was going to fall over to keep my balance and they want to turn my head very much to excite the minus stimulus system as much and after a couple days

gyro you're fine but you're instructed not to drive a car or a flying airplane or lift anything heavy or do anything like that until you're approved for those activities by the flight surgeon final farewells and handshakes all the way around before they make their way through that hatch

way behind peek into the soyuz tma 19 m spacecraft one of our biggest concerns for astronaut health in space is radiation exposure we have to be careful about that here on earth as well we're out in the Sun we want to wear a sunscreen protect us from the

harmful effects of the Sun in space we don't have an atmosphere or a magnetic field which also protects us from radiation here on earth if you're above that you're going to be exposed and that we're very concerned with so we try to do whatever we can to shield

the astronauts from radiation and we do that in the spacecraft for example by using certain materials and shielding that will protect them from radiation NASA does monitor that we have a device called the dosimeter which is a wireless looks like a piece of plastic that can measure the

amount of radiation you have taken and it is placed in your in your launch suit and then you hand that in at the end of the mission and they read it to see how much radiation you've been exposed to as we go further and further away we get

further from earth radiation exposure could be the most important issue that needs to be solved or prevented against if we're going to be travelling further and further into space something we don't always think about radiation exposures is it can be very harmful and it's a real challenge for

space travel [Music] one thing remembers you want to enter your space flight in his best shape as possible it's hard to make up for a lack of exercise while you're in space but it is much easier to be able to maintain where you are and maybe get a

little better if you enter the flight if you launch in pretty good physical condition for now the best way to stay healthy in a zero-gravity environment is to exercise

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