High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has had a lot of attention over the past few years as an exercise method because studies show better improvement in various fitness parameters than traditional, steady state training (though I am still skeptical as to whether this benefit is retained long-term).

One of these benefits is that there is an improvement in fitness without a loss in muscle mass, whereas traditional endurance training slowly causes a loss of muscle.

This would seem like a huge benefit on the ISS or any other long-term space mission as it would cut back on workout times and frequency while yielding better results.

I am wondering if this method of exercise has ever been trialed in space and if so what were the results?


A major focus of the long stay Mir missions was to monitor the long term effects of weightlessness on the human body. As a part of that, cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov stayed 437 days in space, following an intensive training program much like the HIIT. He was able to counteract the loss of muscle mass typically experienced on long space flights, but it did not solve the problem of weakening of the skeleton.

However, the workout time required did still consume a considerable time of the daily routine, even though it was of the high intensity type. The Mir missions showed that it is possible to keep a good health in space, but at the cost of having to follow the training program of a top athlete just to stay fit.

A currently ongoing project, the year long mission by Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korniyenko, will provide more data on the effects of long stays in space. They are however following a slightly less intensive workout program than the Mir missions.


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