The astronaut-approved method for a strong heart, muscles and bones

You want to exercise more, but after a long commute, sitting at a desk all day, making dinner and cleaning dishes, you can’t find the time (or energy) to go to the gym.

It’s a common problem… one that astronauts can relate to.

It’s not easy to exercise when you’re in outer space, since there’s no gravity. Having a weightless body means astronauts’ bones and muscles don’t get much action, especially their lower body. After a while, they end up as weak as someone stuck on bed rest for months.

Unfortunately, staying sedentary has terrible consequences on your health, whether you’re in space or firmly planted on planet earth…

You slowly lose muscle mass and bone mass, which makes you more likely to become frail, fall-prone and dependent as you get older. And your heart health takes a major hit too. Some studies show that staying sedentary can increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by as much as 60 to 80 percent.

But recent research may have found a simple way for astronauts to bounce back from their sedentary lifestyle… one that could work for you too…

Jumping.

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Jumping and health

A recent trial sponsored by the European Space Agency found that short daily sessions of jumping could counteract the negative side effects of being sedentary.

In the trial, researchers confined 23 participants to bedrest for 60 days to mimic the physical conditions astronauts face when they’re flying through space. But during this time of bedrest, they also had participants perform three minutes of exercise that simulates jumping five times per week.

Since they were trying to find a solution to sedentary living for astronauts, they couldn’t have study participants just jump around like us normal folks would. Instead, they had participants lay down on a horizontal jumping machine that could recreate the effect of gravity in space.

And it worked!

By “jumping” for three minutes per day five days per week, study participants were able to maintain their muscle mass and bone mass, even while staying sedentary the rest of the day. They also maintained their peak oxygen uptake, which is a sign of cardiovascular fitness.

Even though researchers performed this study to help astronauts stay healthy, they’re psyched about jumping’s potential benefits for everyone else too.

“This training is effective, it can be performed anywhere on Earth without any device and in a very short amount of time,” said researcher Andreas Kramer from the University of Konstanz, Germany

Jump around!

Even if it’s hard to find time to work out, you can spare three minutes per day for jumping. In the study, participants “jumped” for three minutes per day five days per week. They squeezed about 70 jumps into those three minutes. Of course, you can always do more…

Maybe do five minutes per day, seven days per week. And if you really want to embrace jumping-focused fitness, you can get creative with your daily jumping by trying things like:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • Burpees
  • Martial arts
  • Playing basketball
  • Playing volleyball
  • Playing badminton

Or keep things super simple and just jump around! It’s an easy and fun way to keep your muscles, bones and heart in shape.

And FYI… if you want to start jumping, but think it’s too hard on your joints, invest in a mini trampoline and try rebounding. Rebounding has a lot of the same benefits as regular jumping, without putting as much pressure on your joints.

Here are three rebounding videos by Dr. Mark Wiley: Rebound to tone your legs and lower body; Rebound for cardio fitness; and Rebound exercises for strong core and legs.

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Sources:

  1. Health Risks of an Inactive Lifestyle — MedlinePlus. Retrieved January, 26, 2018.
  2. Y. Warren, et al. “Sedentary Behaviors Increase Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality in Men.” — Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. May 2010; 42(5): 879–885.
  3. Jumping around for good health — MedicalXpress. Retrieved January, 26, 2018.
  4. Jumping Up and Down Is Ridiculously Good Exercise — Time. January, 26, 2018.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.