The effects of inactivity on earth and in space

When older adults experience long stretches of inactivity such as bed rest, the lack of use causes parts of the body to experience deconditioning. The heart, bones and muscles can all experience a decrease in function, which can lead to stiffening in the arteries and bone-density loss.

Richard Hughson, Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health, has been studying this same age-like deconditioning in astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). His research has shown that after a 6-month stay on the ISS, healthy astronauts experience stiffening in the arteries similar to 10-20 years of aging on earth. This is due in part to the decrease in activity astronauts experience while they float in space.

Now, Hughson and 13 other scientists and clinicians from the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging will be studying this type of aging closer to home.

Hughson and his team have recently been granted funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the effects of inactivity in older adults as part of CIHR’s Transitions in Care Initiative. Hughson will look at the effects of inactivity and bed rest in adults aged 55-65 by comparing their chronological age (actual age) to their biological age (age based on biomarkers in the blood and physical condition) as well as changes in cognitive function and spiritual well-being before and after long stretches of inactivity.

Hughson hopes that this research will provide helpful information to help older adults here on earth stay healthy and active even when they are confined to a bed, and support health for astronauts in space.

To learn more about this project, and Transitions in Care Initiative, click here.

To see how Hughson’s work with astronauts is helping us learn about healthy aging on earth, click here.

For more information about Hughson’s work with the Canadian Space Agency, click here.