One of my favorite answers in SXSE is this one which addresses subtler effects of low gravity on sports that one might not anticipate. There are other answers there, and other questions and answers about swimming here as well.

This question about jumping was recently re-opened and I think it's a good question, and the answer there almost qualifies as a mini scholarly work in itself. The human musculoskeletal system is (roughly) optimized for a certain combination of inertial and gravity, and playing sports in a very different gravity might result in some unexpected differences.

A simple case in point - ISS astronauts and lots of other people as well know that it takes time to learn to carefully and safely move heavy objects in microgravity without injury. Weight lifters would have to learn this as well - what new kinds of injuries will result from an overzealous jerk (motion) in the clean and jerk?

On the other hand, maybe the shot put would not need quite as much interplanetary cross training as it is more about inertia and Newton's Laws of Motion than it is gravity - from the point of view of the mechanics of the athlete.

And of course there are questions of bone loss in low gravity, but there is not much known about long term effects in reduced gravity yet.

So I'd like to know: has there been any scholarly or serious work in Sports Science for the low surface gravity of Mars or the Moon?

I almost changed this question to "how would the clean and jerk have to be done differently on Mars". It's a really good question as well and not so simple. If you have a good quantitative answer, you could ask and answer yourself, or someone could just ask it! But it deserves a thorough treatment.

  • $\begingroup$ Theoretical work in Sports Science for the low surface gravity of Mars or the Moon is possible, but real experiments under low gravity would be extreamly expensive. Without a landing on the Moon or Mars only a large centrifuge in an Earth orbit would allow experiments under a lower than Earth's gravity. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 19:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Uwe dynamical models of human motion are highly developed in sports medicine and science. You can do a lot with these. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ But a dynamical model of human motion is theoretical work. The validity of the model may be tested only under Earth's gravity. Very short tests in a parabolic flight. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 11:31

1 Answer 1


Starting with preparation for Apollo, there’s a body of work on the effect of low G on exercise physiology, c.f.

SANBORN, W. G.; WORTZ, E. C. Metabolic rates during lunar gravity simulation. Aerospace Medicine 1967 Vol.38 pp.380-382

Abstract : Nine men, breathing through a Godart Pulmonet spirometer, walked at 2 and 4 miles per h on treadmill and platform at 1/6 gravity in a 4 degrees of freedom inclined plane gimbal simulator, with 2 different slings, the standard sling and a sling with rigid chest plate. Oxygen consumption with standard sling and with rigid chest support was not significantly different.

There’s a sequence of work in this area, e.g.

HE, J. P., R. KRAM, and T. A. MCMAHON. Mechanics of running under simulated low gravity. J. Appl. Physiol. 71:863– 870, 1991.

Using a linear mass-spring model of the body and leg (T. A. McMahon and G. C. Cheng. J. Biomech. 23: 65–78, 1990), we present experimental observations of human running under simulated low gravity and an analysis of these experiments. The purpose of the study was to investigate how the spring properties of the leg are adjusted to different levels of gravity.

N.b. Some “reduced gravity running” papers around then diverged into the question of how to improve recovery training for terrrstrial athletes with muscloskeletal injuries by reducing weight load on extremities, not so much on reduced-gravity physiology per se.

Simultaneously, there was related effort for spacecraft ergonomics that provided another starting point. Marton et als “Handbook of human engineering design data for reduced gravity conditions” (1971) presented strength and speed data obtained with neutral buoyancy measurements.

Yet a third thread is neuro-physiology, with some interesting work around coordination that might be relevant to sport science. There was work on both Spacelab and MIR around this:

Homick et al. Overview of the Neurolab spacelab mission. Acta Astronautica, Volume 42, Issues 1–8, January–April 1998, Pages 69-87

KKC Thibault. Astronaut Adaptive Arm Motions on the MIR Space Station: Kinematic Analysis MIT DSpace 1998

Although intended for the ISS, not Mars or the Moon, there’s even been theoretical and experimental work on physical games for space c.f.:

Sandra Häuplik-Meusburgera, Manuela Aguzzib, Regina Peldszusc. A Game For Space. Acta Astronautica Volume 66, Issues 3–4, February–March 2010, Pages 605-609

None of that is exactly Sport Science, in the sense of being about Martian soccer or lunar golf, but rather physiological foundational work. Still, the space agencies know that sport will be in space eventually, and do encourage the idea:

Koppeschaar, E. C. Sports and Recreational Activities on the Moon. Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon, Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon: ICEUM 4. Held 10-14 July, 2000, at ESTEC, Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Edited by B. H. Foing and M. Perry. European Space Agency, ESA SP-462,


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