Just when it felt like you'd heard every wellness tip on Earth, we're bringing you advice from 240 miles beyond it. That's the average distance between our planet and the International Space Station, where astronauts stay in peak physical and mental condition by putting these lessons to practice.
"You don't have to be superstrong to become an astronaut," says Staci Latham, an athletic trainer with the Astronaut Strength & Conditioning and Rehabilitation (ASCR) Program at NASA. Instead, she says, you need to be willing to put in the work, day in and day out, during at least a year of preflight cardio and resistance training.
"Consistency trumps intensity every time," says Latham. For Earth dwellers, difference between celexa and lexapro that means it's better to do a virtual dance-cardio class three times a week for 20 minutes than to run five miles once a month. The same principle applies when an astronaut is onboard: Most exercise for about two and a half hours a day, six days a week. Taking time to move nearly every day helps offset the physical toll a microgravity environment (contrary to popular belief, there is some gravity in space) takes on bones, which would otherwise dramatically decrease in density.
So how exactly does one work out in space? The International Space Station (ISS)'s exercise equipment "all have their own unique microgravity weirdness," says astronaut Christina Koch. There's no seat on a bike — just handrails — and using a treadmill requires a harness. "It [feels like] running with a gigantic backpack, but at the same time being lighter than you should be," she says.
Koch, an avid yogi, was also able to adapt her practice to space. "I would get into a posture and just let the air current move me around." And, yes, we will recall this resourcefulness
the next time we need motivation to move aside a coffee table so we can spend 30 minutes with Kayla Itsines.
Inside the Johnson Space Center in Houston, among the spaceflight training and flight controls, there is a dedicated food lab making thermostabilized meals and freeze-dried options. Yum. Salt intake is limited onboard (it can increase the risk of bone demineralization), but treating yourself is allowed, say, to celebrate the end of a long week, says Koch.
Astronauts are permitted to receive some shelf-stable goods from home. Koch chose dark chocolate, but, of course, her supply was limited. "I actually wrote dates on each chocolate bar for when I was allowed to open it," she says. "I made sure that they were spaced through the end of the mission so that I wouldn’t have a time without dark chocolate."
If you thought your washday was complicated, try shampooing in outer space. Since it's not possible to shower, washing your hair requires carefully applying water from a bag with a nozzle (if you're not careful, droplets will fly everywhere), then combing in a no-rinse shampoo, says former astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.
As on Earth, some strands will probably be shed during this process. But unlike on Earth, "they won't drop to the ground," says Metcalf-Lindenburger. "So you've got to do something about it or your crewmates will be annoyed. No one wants a floating hairball in space." The sticky side of a piece of duct tape acts like a catcher’s mitt for errant strands.
Skin care and makeup must be prescreened by NASA toxicologists and deemed safe and stable for transport (the fewer ingredients, the more likely they are to pass). Metcalf-Lindenburger packed moisturizers (the dry air in the cabin — purposeful since humidity and electronic equipment do not mix — can easily dehydrate skin) along with minimal makeup such as concealer and blush to use before broadcast interviews. She says powder formulas are your best bet when floating in a spacecraft — liquids can get messy. Noted.
The mental toll of a spaceflight can be as great as the physical one. Former astronaut Peggy Whitson has spent a total of 665 days in space, more than any other American. Coping with being
away from loved ones and the monotony of "cleaning the vents for the 30th time" was made easier by remembering that she was part of something larger than herself.
"I was helping keep the space station alive," says Whitson. She suggests thinking similarly if you've been struggling with the isolation required during the pandemic: You're keeping your distance in pursuit of a greater good.
"I only saw 11 other humans for 11 months straight," says Koch of her time on the ISS, noting that interacting with people again, even from six feet away due to the pandemic, didn't always come easy. Koch found socializing in small doses at a time and brainstorming topics of conversation beforehand helped ease any anxiety.
A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.
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