How to train like an astronaut

If you think astronauts have a cushy job, just floating around aimlessly in space… think again! These men and women are some the strongest people in the world. They spend a lot of time in micro-gravity (weightlessness), which can be hard on the human body. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), micro-gravity can cause your muscles and bones to deteriorate.

So, to protect against the damaging effects of space travel, astronauts need to stay fit and healthy. Wondering how they do it?

Try these NASA-approved exercises for stellar fitness.

For an astronaut core

In space, muscles get smaller and weaker over time. So, it’s important for astronauts to strengthen their core.

Strong core muscles can protect your spine, sustain proper posture, and prevent injuries. With resilient core muscles, you may also find that you can balance extra weight easier, and have better agility.

Here’s how to build your core like an astronaut:

1. Commander crunches

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Cross your arms over your chest, and point your chin to the sky.
  • Using your abdominal muscles, lift your upper body until your shoulder blade leaves the ground.
  • Lower your shoulders down to complete one crunch.
  • Do as many crunches as you can in one minute.

2. Pilot plank

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Rest on your forearms, and make a fist with each hand.
  • Using your arm muscles, push your body off the floor, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Your body should be as straight as a board from your head to your feet.
  • Stabilise your body by tightening the muscles in your abdomen and back.
  • Hold this position for at least 30 seconds.

For tough muscles and bones

Astronauts need to perform physical work in space. Without gravity, certain movements are a lot easier, since your body doesn’t have to work against the force of gravity. However, the downside is that your muscles will deteriorate, if you don’t keep them working. These body weight exercises will help keep you strong with, or without gravity.

1. Body weight squats

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight, gaze forward, and rest your arms at your side.
  • Lower your body, bending your knees while keeping your back straight as if you’re about to sit.
  • As you go down, raise your arms forward for balance.
  • At the bottom of the motion, your upper legs should be close to parallel with the floor, and your knees shouldn’t extend past your toes.
  • To finish the squat, raise your body back to a standing position. This is one repetition.
  • Do 10 to 25 repetitions.
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2. Push-ups

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Place your hands on the floor, under your shoulders, shoulder-width apart.
  • Using your arms, lift your body off the floor until your lower body is off the floor and only your toes and hands are touching the floor. If this is too difficult, you may keep your knees on the floor.
  • Straighten your arms to raise your body. Do not lock your elbows.
  • Lower your body down to the ground. This is one repetition.
  • Do 10 to 25 repetitions.

For improved strength and coordination

Astronauts need good muscular strength and coordination to pull and push things during a spacewalk. For you, strong muscles and coordination can help support your weight, and move without falling over.

Here’s how to increase your muscular strength, and upper and lower body coordination:

1. Bear crawl

  • Measure a distance of about 12 metres.
  • Get down on your hands and feet, facing the floor.
  • Once in position, walk on all fours to the measured distance.
  • Rest for two minutes, then repeat twice more.

2. Crab walk

  • This is reverse of the “bear crawl”.
  • Sit on the ground. Put your arms and hands behind you, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift yourself off the ground, facing upwards.
  • On all fours, travel the measured distance.
  • Rest for two minutes, then repeat two more times.

What do astronauts eat before they go into space?

The traditional pre-launch breakfast for NASA astronauts began with Alan Shepard. According to Robert Frost, a flight controller at NASA, Alan had steak and eggs for breakfast on the day of his flight, so most astronauts do today. Steak and eggs is deemed a good choice because it’s a good hearty breakfast for a busy day. It’s also low residue, which means it produces less waste to dispose of later.

But this isn’t mandatory. Astronauts can eat whatever they want, according to former astronaut Thomas David Jones. “We try to eat our favourite foods because we know space food can never match the variety, texture, and flavours of our favourite Earth dishes,” he says.