A brand new pilot study published by the aerospace field’s top journal highlights the benefits of osteogenic loading, with surprising implications for the X3 bar. Could X3 be the secret ingredient astronauts need to stay strong in space?
Strength & Bone Density: Lost in Space #
It’s long been known that astronaut strength and bone density decrease in the microgravity environment of space. During a 6-month long-term space flight, astronauts may lose up to 1.5% of their bone density, which is 50% more than expected via natural aging while on earth.
What’s more, the space program’s best efforts at preventing this decline don’t appear to be working. Some crew members never return 1 to their baseline bone density, even 2–4 years after their mission. This leaves astronauts prone to injury and bone breakage, putting entire missions at risk.
Currently, astronauts do their best to maintain strength through a combination of bisphosphonate supplementation and strength exercises, which are performed on an Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, otherwise known as ARED . In a potential mission to Mars, however, there likely won’t be room on board for an ARED 1.
As space missions become longer and manned flights to mars become increasingly possible, Dr. Jaquish and team wondered if there was a way to improve strength and bone density pre-flight with effects that could last throughout one’s mission.
And perhaps there exists a device more compact than the ARED that can deliver better muscle-strengthening results?
The Power of Osteogenic Loading #
In the pilot study, published in the March 2021 issue of Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance 2, a healthy female subject demonstrated considerable improvements to strength and bone density over 24 weeks, having devoted just 15 minutes per day to an osteogenic loading regimen using the Spectrum devices developed by Dr. John Jaquish.
After 24 weeks, the subject gained a considerable amount of strength, bone formation biomarkers increased by 39%, and area bone mineral density increased by 6–11% throughout the skeletal system.
- 97% increase in maximum force generated in the upper body
- 43% gains in the lower body
- 22% gains in spinal compression strength
Increased Bone Formation Biomarker (BAP):
- 39% increase in BAP
- Still 18% higher than baseline at nine weeks post-study
Improved Bone Density (aBMD):
- 4.3% improvement in the arms
- 6.3% improvement in the trunk
- 11% improvement in the pelvis
Considering the subject spent just a total of 6 hours on maximal axial bone loading throughout the 24-week study, the strength gains are impressive.
The healthy, weight-trained subject had never experienced gains at this rate, nor had she achieved such heavy maximal lifts in nearly five years of traditional weight lifting.
Increasing Bone Density for Space Missions #
Bones adapt to the stress of compression loads. What’s more, it’s not the number of repetitions or the duration of this stress that matters, but the magnitude. Achieving maximum bone strength with just one maximum effort is the method of action behind the Spectrum devices at OsteoStrong .
This method considerably improves bone density and does so in less than 15 minutes per day. This has a wide range of benefits for astronauts, who have little time for exercise while on a mission. But time is not the only thinking lacking in outer space, so too is, well … space.
Astronauts live in tight quarters without a lot of room for extras. While the equipment behind OsteoStrong shows great promise for increasing bone-density pre or post-mission, it weighs over a thousand pounds and there’s certainly no room for the machines on a flight.
Even if OsteoStrong’s Spectrum devices aren’t likely to be sent into space, they represent a great opportunity for astronauts to preemptively increase bone density prior to space travel, and to aid in the recovery of bone density after the fact. And perhaps a compact version of Spectrum could one day be developed for use during long-term space flight?
Is X3 the Solution for Strength on Mars? #
But what about options for preventing the atrophy of astronauts' muscle and strength? What if the world’s most powerful stimulus for muscle growth is something that’s already well optimized for use aboard a spacecraft?
That’s where the X3 Bar variable resistance training system comes in. Could X3 be the pint-sized device that changes the outcome for astronaut strength?
More research is needed to understand how osteogenic loading benefits might translate to a ‘shoebox-sized device’ such as the X3 Bar. But by building muscle mass, the X3 bar should help astronauts maintain or even build strength 3 and muscle mass while on long missions and this compact device could easily meet the weight and volume requirements of the space program.
If the pilot study is any indicator, OsteoStrong’s Spectrum System and X3 should be prized additions to any spacecraft.
In the words of the world’s top aerospace researchers, it “could potentially serve as a countermeasure for bone and strength loss on exploration vehicles.”
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