Exercise has shown little success in mitigating bone loss from long-duration spaceflight. The first crews of the International Space Station (ISS) used the "interim resistive exercise device" (iRED), which allowed loads of up to 297 lb(f) (or 1337 N) but provided little protection of bone or no greater protection than aerobic exercise. In 2008, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), which allowed absolute loads of up to 600 lb(f) (1675 N), was launched to the ISS. We report dietary intake, bone densitometry, and biochemical markers in 13 crewmembers on ISS missions from 2006 to 2009. Of these 13, 8 had access to the iRED and 5 had access to the ARED. In both groups, bone-specific alkaline phosphatase tended to increase during flight toward the end of the mission (p = 0.06) and increased 30 days after landing (p < 0.001). Most markers of bone resorption were also increased in both groups during flight and 30 days after landing (p < 0.05). Bone densitometry revealed significant interactions (time and exercise device) for pelvis bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (p < 0.01), hip femoral neck BMD (p < 0.05), trochanter BMD (p < 0.05), and total hip BMD (p < 0.05). These variables were unchanged from preflight only for ARED crewmembers, who also returned from flight with higher percent lean mass and lower percent fat mass. Body mass was unchanged after flight in both groups. All crewmembers had nominal vitamin D status (75 ± 17 nmol/L) before and during flight. These data document that resistance exercise, coupled with adequate energy intake (shown by maintenance of body mass determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [DXA]) and vitamin D, can maintain bone in most regions during 4- to 6-month missions in microgravity. This is the first evidence that improving nutrition and resistance exercise during spaceflight can attenuate the expected BMD deficits previously observed after prolonged missions.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.