Astronauts get sky gym workout

By Cheng Yingqi in Beijing and Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-07 08:04

Escaping the effects of the Earth's gravity and floating around in space may sound exciting, but a constant state of near weightlessness can result in a number of health problems.

That's why the astronauts aboard the Tiangong II space lab work out for two hours every day. The onboard sports apparatus - an exercise bike and a treadmill - were specially designed to help astronauts exercise their lower limbs and cardiopulmonary systems.

"The biggest difference between the apparatus used in space and those we use in the gym was related to weight," said Qin Younian, chief engineer of the Shanxi Orient Fitness & Health Industry Co, which designed and produced the equipment.

Astronauts get sky gym workout

The total weight of the bike and treadmill on Tiangong II had to be less than 10 kilograms, while similar equipment in a gym can weigh more than 120 kg.

"While using as many light materials as possible, we also had to ensure the strength of the apparatus, which required high technology," Qin said.

When they run on the treadmill, the astronauts are held in place by an elastic strap that mimics Earth's gravity and helps them to maintain lower-body strength, while the exercise bike improves cardiopulmonary function.

"We are developing a resistance-training apparatus as well as further perfecting the bike and treadmill. By the time China completes its own space station, we will be able to send up better apparatus with a weight limit of as much as 200 kg," Qin said.

According to the Made in China 2025 strategy, published by the State Council in May last year, China will complete construction of its space station by 2020.

"The weightless environment in space is unsuitable for humans. For example, our leg, back and waist muscles bear our weight all the time on Earth. However, without gravity, we soon lose muscle mass, and risk brittle-bone syndrome and even blood pressure problems," said Yu Jun, an amateur astronomer and senior editor at Beijing Guoke Interactive Technology Media.

"As a result, the astronauts have to do enough exercise to alleviate the problem."

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(China Daily 11/07/2016 page6)

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