Weightless Workouts

A new fitness machine on the space station brings astronaut exercise into the 21st century

astronaut exercise equipment

Every holiday season, we Earth-bound types do penance on the treadmill for having scarfed down too much fudge and eggnog. Astronauts exercise not out of guilt, but to stay healthy (gotta keep the bones strong and the muscles from going slack in weightlessness). Toward that end, the crew of the International Space Station got a present just in time for the holidays—new exercise equipment.

Astronauts Mike Fincke and Sandy Magnus have spent much of this week setting up the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), which arrived on space shuttle Endeavour last month to replace the crew’s old fitness equipment (modeled above by astronaut Suni Williams on-board the station in 2007). As of midweek Fincke and Magnus were still struggling, like many a parent on Christmas morning, to unpack and assemble their new equipment—a restraining bolt didn’t want to come loose. But assuming everything finally comes together, the ARED will be bigger, better, and generally more deluxe than any fitness machine ever used in space.

Click through the photo gallery below for a brief history of orbital exercise.



The space station's new Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED) uses vacuum pressure to give the astronauts a workout. Think of an oversize, high-tech bicycle pump. Crew members can exercise their upper and lower bodies on the versatile machine, which also includes cable-and-pulley and flywheel mechanisms to simulate free weights. Astronauts will typically exercise on ARED for two and a half hours each day, and can customize their workouts using digital displays.

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