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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

lessness.” Further flights are planned for 2012 and 2013. Then the researchers will only need to prove that their methods have a long-term effect. They are thus preparing a so-called bed-rest study, in which a dozen volunteers will lie in bed for several weeks under medical supervision. “The team of test subjects will not consist of average people but potential astronauts: healthy, physically fit, and physically stable,” explains Gollhofer. They will be split up into two groups: One will test the exercise methods and the other will not exercise at all. In the end, the scientists will perform physical exam- inations and compare the two groups. The Machines Simulate Gravity The research team is testing three exercise methods: whole body vibration, jumping, and balance control. All three are based on the prin- ciple of simulating the gravity that is missing in space with the help of exercise machines. The exercisers lie on their backs, their feet on a rect- angular board. The machines are equipped with straps or a vacuum system that places pressure corresponding to the strength of gravity from the shoulders to the feet. In the case of whole body vibration, the board under the feet is on springs. When it vibrates, it triggers reflexes that activate the muscles. “We want to provide as many stim- uli as possible so that the muscles contract and relax again in rapid succession,” explains Goll- hofer. This improves the exerciser’s condition and strength, especially in the legs and the up- per body. Studies indicate that bedridden pa- tients can use these exercise methods to retain at least part of their bone structure and muscle mass. This has little to do with the fat-burning belts typically seen on infomercials, says the sports scientist: “There is a lot of garbage on the market.” Jumping exercises are an especially effective means of training the muscles and the bones – not just in the legs, but in the entire body. “We believe that this is the most efficient way to exer- cise,” says Ritzmann. Lying in a supine position, the test subjects push up against the artificial gravity simulated by the board under their feet. The goal is for the muscles and nerves to exhibit the same activity pattern as they would with nor- mal jumping exercises and thus achieve the same training effect. The device is not compa- rable to the bodybuilding equipment found at fit- ness studios, explains the doctoral candidate, where the exerciser pushes the board down with Whole body vibration, jumping, and balance control: The exercisers lie on their backs, their feet on a rectan- gular board. The machines simulate gravity by placing pressure on the shoulders. Photo: Hoffmann/Multhaupt DLR “When astronauts land on Mars, it is very important for them to have a functioning sense of coordination” 22