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Swedish space gym being tested by astronauts

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) is presently testing a Swedish space gym. The gym was developed by Per Tesch, a professor at Mid Sweden University. The aim is to counteract muscle atrophy and osteoporosis in astronauts.

Astronauts who spend a long time in space can face problems when they return to earth. Weightlessness atrophies the muscles and decalcifies the skeleton. It doesn't help to "pump iron." Barbells and dumbbells are also weightless on a space voyage.

But Per Tesch and his colleagues have found a solution that functions like a reverse yo-yo. The inertia of a rotating flywheel is exploited to create resistance. The astronaut velcros him/herself in place and pulls a cord that is connected to the flywheel. The wheel only weighs a couple of kilos, but its diameter makes the inertia considerable, and the load on the muscles and skeleton is at least as great as in weight training.

Per Tesch has researched the topic for 15 years on commission from both the Swedish National Space Board and its American counterpart, NASA. The "yo-yo" is now being tested in space for first time. It was recently delivered by the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis to the ISS, which is part of a European laboratory.

"It's fantastic. I have been working a long time for this," says Per Tesch.

He hasn't received any reports about how it's going.

"It's still secret, but we'll know in a few months."

Per Tesch was appointed professor of sports science at Mid Sweden University last autumn. The findings from his research in space physiology will be put to use in developing training methods for sports, exercise, and rehabilitation.

Lars Aronsson | alfa
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