Slow Recovery

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Future spacefarers will have to schedule visits with their orthopedists after prolonged visits in zero gravity, according to Cosmos magazine.

Past research has shown that long stays in space can have detrimental effects on the human body, including the loss of bone density.

But a new study found that this loss of density is almost permanent even one year after astronauts have returned to Earth.

Scientists initially scanned the shin and forearm bones of 17 astronauts before they left Earth. Then they did the same scans three times on their return: immediately after their return, six months later, and at the one-year mark.

The team analyzed how the bones’ mineral density, resistance to fractures and tissue thickness changed after months of zero gravity. The astronauts’ missions lasted between four and seven months.

Their findings showed that density didn’t completely return 12 months after a four-month – or longer – stint in space.

“We found that weight-bearing bones only partially recovered in most astronauts one year after spaceflight,” said lead author Leigh Gabel. “This suggests the permanent bone loss due to spaceflight is about the same as a decade worth of age-related bone loss on Earth.”

Still, Gabel and her colleagues noted that some astronauts did recover better than others, adding that individuals who conducted in-flight resistance training – such as deadlifting exercises – were more likely to regain bone mineral density in their shins.

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