Astronauts share isolation workout tips from space (video)

As experts at staying healthy under unusual conditions, astronauts currently living aboard the International Space Station have shared their exercise and isolation tips. 

Getting exercise is a great way to stay both physically and mentally healthy, but it can be tough to get a good workout at home, as many of us who are self-isolating amid the coronavirus pandemic are learning. And, while working out outside can be great, options are limited while practicing social distancing. So, who to turn to for advice on working out in a cramped space? Astronauts, of course!

Video: Astronaut tips for handling self-isolation
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An astronaut workout

Jessica Meir does squats with the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device on the International Space Station.  (Image credit: NASA)

In a new video they both posted to Twitter, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan shared some of their tips. "As current residents of @Space_Station, @AstroDrewMorgan and I thought we'd share some of our strategies for living happily in isolation," Meir wrote on Twitter.

The video opens with Meir on a pull-up bar in the microgravity environment on the space station. 

"Studies have shown that exercise is vital not only to your physical health but also to your mental well-being," Meir said in the video. "You may need to get a little bit creative to get that heart rate elevated while at home without getting to the gym, but we're confident you can come up with something. Here's how we get the job done on the International Space Station." She added that it's especially important for astronauts to work out to counteract the bone-density and muscle loss that happens to humans in space. 

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After showing off the station's pull-up bar, Meir points to one of the major pieces of equipment that the astronauts use: the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, or ARED. "It is basically our one-stop weight machine," Meir said. "The ARED uses two large vacuum tubes to generate the resistance for our weight."

For example, Meir demonstrated using the machine to do squats; Morgan followed, adjusting the machine to deadlift. 

Andrew Morgan does deadlifts with the ARED.  (Image credit: NASA)

Morgan then showed how astronauts run in space on "T 2," or treadmill 2. Because of the lack of gravity, astronauts can't just run on a treadmill like we would here on Earth: If they tried, they would just float around. "Bungees and my harness are holding me against the treadmill," Morgan said as he demonstrated. 

Jessica Meir runs on the T2 treadmill in space.  (Image credit: NASA)

"It's pretty fun to run on T 2, you've got a little extra spring in your step," Meir said. She then pointed to another way that astronauts on the space station get their cardiovascular exercise in: a stationary bicycle. Known as the Cycle Ergometer Vibration Isolation Stabilization, or CEVIS, this specialized "space bike" has no seat or handlebars, because such features aren't necessary in microgravity, Meir said. 

Andrew Morgan bikes with Cycle Ergometer Vibration Isolation Stabilization on the space station.  (Image credit: NASA)

"[CEVIS] gives us probably our most cardiovascularly intense workout," she said. "I get a much greater heart rate than I do running on the treadmill." 

Applying astronaut advice

Now, most people isolating on Earth won't have the same type of exercise equipment as astronauts on the space station do. In fact, many of us trying to get a workout in at home might not have any equipment at all! But one great takeaway from Meir and Morgan's video is, as Meir said, "get a little bit creative."

In space, astronauts are constantly coming up with new and inventive solutions for how to live and work most effectively in a strange and often difficult environmen. For example, CEVIS is really just a couple of pedals because why take up extra space with handlebars that aren't needed in microgravity? 

So keep your workout gravity-compatible, of course, but don't forget to bring an astronaut's creativity to unusual circumstances. 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Chelsea Gohd
Senior Writer

Chelsea “Foxanne” Gohd joined in 2018 and is now a Senior Writer, writing about everything from climate change to planetary science and human spaceflight in both articles and on-camera in videos. With a degree in Public Health and biological sciences, Chelsea has written and worked for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine and Live Science. When not writing, editing or filming something space-y, Chelsea "Foxanne" Gohd is writing music and performing as Foxanne, even launching a song to space in 2021 with Inspiration4. You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd and @foxannemusic.