Winn on NASA-Funded Exercise Research Team

Posted on: September 24, 2013

astronaut-exercisingA group of Michigan State University researchers have received a three-year, $1.2 million grant from NASA to try to keep astronauts motivated to exercise during space flight. Media and Information (M&I) associate professor Brian Winn is among the team of researchers.

"At zero gravity muscles break down, so keeping up with exercise regimens during space missions is important," Winn said. "Our research is looking at the group dynamic of working out to help motivate astronauts to exercise during long-term space flight."

Based on previous findings that virtual partners can improve a person's motivation to exercise, the researchers are creating and testing software to see what type of computer-generated workout partner is most effective.

"Because you exercise better when working out with someone, we are trying to create virtual workout partners and testing the effect that they have," Winn said.

The psychological benefits of exercise also are particularly important for a crew flying millions of miles through space in a home about the size of a moving van.

The project is part of a broader NASA effort to help space crews work together effectively and maintain their health during the long voyages being planned for the coming decades. A manned flight to Mars, for instance, has moved from the pages of science fiction to the national science agenda; NASA aims to have astronauts orbit the red planet in the early 2030s.

Working on the project with Winn are project leader Deborah Feltz, University Distinguished Professor of kinesiology; Norbert Kerr, professor of psychology; and James Pivarnik, professor of kinesiology and epidemiology. The team is partnering with Lori Ploutz-Snyder, NASA's lead exercise physiologist at the Johnson Space Center and a former MSU postdoctoral fellow.

The team recently returned from NASA where they conducted their initial round of tests.

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