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Announcement Background
Exercise Countermeasures Project Mission Statement:
spacer ECL at NASA Glenn Research Center serves the NASA Exercise Countermeasures Project (ECP) and exercise community as a whole by providing a ground-based laboratory for simulating in-flight (0-g) and surface (fractional-g) exercise ˆ to advance the health and safety of the next generation of space explorers.

About the Project
  AboutTheProjectImage1In the next 50 years, NASA plans to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars. These astronauts will need to perform a variety of physical tasks to accomplish their missions. However, they may be physically unable to do these tasks if some of the health effects of space flight are not prevented. The AboutTheProjectImage2effects include decreases in bone and muscle mass, strength, sensory-motor function (i.e. balance), and the ability to perform aerobic exercise. Exercise will play an essential role in lowering the risks from these effects. The Exercise Countermeasures Project (ECP) will develop a new set of exercise countermeasures and determine the types and amounts of exercise needed for long-duration space missions. The ECP team are personnel at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) and Glenn Research Center (GRC), and experts in various scientific disciplines at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) and at colleges and universities. Collaborations between these groups make the most of existing expertise and resources to develop exercise systems for astronauts to use during exploration space missions.

  • Develop prescriptions for exercise countermeasures that efficiently reduce the negative effects of zero and partial gravity and meet the medical needs of astronauts
• Establish the requirements for exercise equipment that will provide the prescribed exercise countermeasures within the constraints imposed by the space exploration vehicle and the astronauts’ habitat on the Moon or Mars
• Develop a set of exercise devices for space flight that are effective, dependable, and lightweight, and require minimal maintenance

Exercise on the International Space Station (ISS)

Resistive Exercise
Resistive exercise, or strength training, is performed against a weight. During space flight, resistance exercise is completed by securing the astronaut to a strength device that imparts load on the body. In environments with low gravity, the resistance device simulates weight bearing on the body. Resistance is varied to provide the weight load needed for each exercise. Current capabilities of load range from 0 - 300 lbs. Resistive exercise is designed to prevent weakening of the major muscle groups by maintaining strength and endurance, as well as minimizing bone loss.

Treadmill Exercise
Treadmill exercise includes walking, running, deep knee bends, and some resistive exercises. This exercise is used to stimulate bone mass, cardiovascular fitness, muscle endurance, and the neurophysiologic pathways and reflexes required for walking on Earth or other planetary surfaces. Treadmill exercise can be performed in either a motorized (active) or non-motorized (passive) mode. The active mode provides the astronaut with speed control adjustable from 0 to 10 miles/hour in increments of 0.1 mile/hour. Passive mode allows the astronaut to drive the tread belt with variable mechanical resistance without the use of a motor. The astronaut is restrained to the treadmill by a subject restraint system, including a harness worn about the shoulders and hips.

Cycle Ergometry
Cycle ergometer exercise in space consists of pedaling a recumbent cycle. This exercise provides general aerobic and cardiovascular conditioning as well as improved muscular endurance. Cycle ergometry is an important aspect of cycleErgometryphysical conditioning for doing ISS tasks such as space walks, and to exercise during the prebreathe period before a space walk. Cycle ergometry can be performed in either a manual mode, where cycling workload is controlled manually by the astronaut, or an electronic mode, where the workload is varied by an electronic controller. The workload on the device being used on the ISS can be set at a maximum of 350 watts for pedal speeds up to 120 rpm.
The Future
theFutureImageThe ECP will build on the successful features of previous space exercise equipment and eliminate features that were less than optimal. Project personnel will work with designers of exploration vehicles and habitats to determine the requirements that an exercise device must meet for use in lunar and Mars environments. Equipment will be tested extensively with humans (“man-in-the-loop” testing) to uncover engineering problems that may not be apparent under mechanical testing conditions. The ISS will provide an excellent inflight platform on which to validate candidate equipment for exercise countermeasures. Data from testing countermeasures for extended periods on the ISS will lead to improvements in the performance of exercise countermeasures. To determine the optimal exercise prescriptions for crewmembers, the ECP will use current ground-based analogs of weightlessness (bed rest, zero-gravity aircraft) and will develop and validate partial-gravity test models and facilities (mimicking Moon and Mars surface operations). The ECP will play an important role in the exploration of the solar system by keeping astronauts healthy, safe, and fit for the required mission tasks.

Effects of Space Flight
  spaceEffectsEarly assessments of medical data from International Space Station astronauts have revealed adverse health outcomes: loss of bone density, decreased muscle strength and endurance, postural instability, and reductions in aerobic capacity. These deconditioning effects are caused by the absence of Earth’s gravity, and over time they can impair astronauts’ performance or increase their risk of injury. Maintaining health and fitness during space missions is critical for preserving astronaut performance during flight tasks (such as extravehicular activity and maintaining life support systems in the vehicle) and ensuring optimal rates of recovery on return to Earth. Exercise is necessary before, during, and after space flight to minimize the deconditioning effects of space flight on the human body. Exploration missions to the Moon and Mars will present unprecedented long-duration confinement, isolation, surface space walks, and exposure to zero and partial-gravity environments. The abrupt return to partial gravity upon arrival on the Moon or Mars, coupled with health issues related to space travel, could affect the ability of astronauts to perform their tasks and may have mission- or life-threatening impacts. The next generation of exercise countermeasures will be a key element in the solution to these problems.


  For decades, NASA has researched the benefits of using exercise in space to maintain astronaut health. When designing exercise systems for exploration missions, NASA engineers and scientists must consider constraints on equipment size, exercise volume, and power consumption that are imposed by the spacecraft and surface habitats. They also must consider unique engineering factors to allow astronauts to adequately load their bodies using harnesses and restraints, and comfortably complete their prescribed exercise regimens. In addition, the exercise duration and frequency should be optimized to allow time for the other mission tasks.

The Big Picture
  Who’s Involved
• NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Labs: Exercise Physiology - Nutritional Biochemistry - Pharmacology - Cardiovascular - Neuroscience - HACO Core Labs, and others
• NASA Glenn Research Center: Exercise Countermeasures Lab (including the enhanced zero-g locomotion simulator or “eZLS”)
• Other JSC Projects: Crew Health Care Systems - Fractional Gravity - Flight Analogs - Bed Rest Research - Non-Exercise Physiological Countermeasures, and others
• National Space Biomedical Research Institute
• Colleges and universities

Project Activities
• Conduct ground analog studies to evaluate efficacy of optimized space flight exercise prescriptions and hardware
• Develop exercise prescription requirements for partial gravity environments
• Conduct ground-based studies to develop partial gravity environments prescriptions
• Conduct physiological and hardware evaluations utilizing eZLS capabilities
• Provide vehicle and habitat trade studies and preliminary requirements for exercise devices
• Define requirements for exercise countermeasure and monitoring hardware for Moon and Mars vehicles and habitats
• Participate in integrated studies with other types of countermeasures

Project Objective
Develop and provide validated exercise countermeasure prescriptions and systems for space exploration that are effective, and optimized; and meet medical, vehicle, and habitat requirements

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Click here for a PDF version of the Exercise Countermeasures Development poster.

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Enhanced Zero Gravity Locomotion Simulator Videos
Click on the images below to view videos
Video 1
spacer NASA Glenn's Enhanced Zero Gravity Locomotion Simulator (eZLS) Study promotional video
video 2
spacer eZLS Exercise Video (Part 1)
video 3
spacer eZLS Exercise Video (Part 2)
spacer eZLS Exercise footage
spacer Astronaut Don Thomas Interview
spacer Gail Perusek Interview, Project Manager for Exercise Countermeasures
spacer Dr. Peter Cavanagh Interview, Co-Director, Center for Space Medicine Cleveland Clinic
spacer eZLS Exercise, additional footage
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Tim Reckart
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Last Updated: March 21, 2007