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Astronaut exercise prescriptions promoting health and fitness on earth

Cardiovascular and skeletal muscle responses to chronic concurrent exercise using flywheel technology in old men

University of Verona

Project in brief

This study aim at assessing the effects of various exercise training programs on functional physiological outcomes, and expression of genes reflecting immune response, in healthy men, age +66 yr. Twelve volunteers are assigned to 10 wk high intensity aerobic exercise (HIT), resistance exercise (RE) or no exercise training, using a randomized crossover design. The 10 wk interventions comprise (i) three sessions (4 sets x 7 reps) per wk employing knee extensor RE, using flywheel inertial technology (YoYo™) or (ii) HIT (30 min, 80-90% VO2 peak, 3 times/wk), followed by 12 wk "wash out". Before and after each intervention, subjects will perform 30 min standardized cycle ergometer tests at 60 and 80% of VO2 peak, respectively. Venous blood samples will be collected pre and post acute exercise, for subsequent microarray analyses of blood cells to reveal potential changes in gene expression. Body composition and quadriceps cross sectional area will be assessed by means of skinfold, DEXA and NMR imaging techniques before and after training. Further, muscle strength, VO2 peak, Qmax and muscle O2 extraction during exercise, will be determined. Exercise training effects are correlated with concomitant molecular changes in response to an acute exercise insult and before and after the 10 wk interventions.


Expected Outcomes

This project will study the efficacy of specific exercise programs to attenuate physiological changes, associated with ageing, by exploiting technology serving as spaceflight exercise countermeasures. This multidisciplinary approach will explore how skeletal muscle use or disuse on one hand, influence immune responses, to benefit both astronauts and the elderly.


Research group

Our research group, headed by Prof. Capelli, has coordinated and/or participated in several bed rest campaigns appointed by the international and national space agencies to study the consequences of disuse on the cardiopulmonary and metabolic responses. Presently, research studies focus on investigating the effects of exercise training on immune and physiological responses.


Research in the field

  • De Roia G, Pogliaghi S, Adami A, Papadopoulou C, Capelli C. Effects of priming exercise on the speed of adjustment of muscle oxidative metabolism at the onset of moderate-intensity step transitions in older adults. Am J Physiol Integr Comp Physiol R1158-R1166, 2012.
  • Bringard A, Pogliaghi S, Adami A, De RoiaG, Lador F, Lucini D, Pizzinelli P, Capelli C, Ferretti G. Cardiovascular determinants of maximal oxygen consumption in upright and supine posture at the end of prolonged bed rest in humans. Resp Physiol Neurobiol 171: 128-134, 2010.
  • Capelli C, Adami A, Antonutto G, Cautero M, Tam E Oxygen deficits and oxygen delivery kinetics during submaximal intensity exercise in humans after 14 days of head-down tilt-bed rest. Eur J Appl Physiol 107: 51-59, 2009.
  • Capelli C, Antonutto G, Cautero M, Tam E, Ferretti G. Metabolic and cardiovascular responses during sub-maximal exercise in humans after 14 days of head – down tilt bed rest and inactivity. Eur J Appl Physiol 104: 909 - 918, 2008.


Principal investigator:

Carlo Capelli, Ph.D., MD.

Associated investigator:

Enrico Tam, Ph.D.