The effect of the gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit upon movement and strength

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INTRODUCTION: Effective countermeasures against musculoskeletal de-conditioning induced by microgravity and disuse are required. A simple alternative to provision of artificial gravity by centrifugation, is compressive axial loading, the Russian "Pingvin" suit was the first wearable suit to apply this concept, using bungee cords, tethered, around the shoulders and feet. However, poor loading characteristics, severe thermal and movement discomfort were reported. The gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit (GLCS) uses a bidirectional weave to generate staged axial loading from shoulders to feet, better mimicking how Earth's gravity induces progressive loading head to foot. The Mk III GLCS's loading was evaluated and tolerability assessed during maximal joint motion, ambulation and selected strength exercises.

METHOD: Eight subjects (5 male and 3 female; 28±3yrs; 179±0.1cm; and 74.8±2.9kg) having given written informed consent, had a Mk III GLCS individually tailored. Axial loading imparted, body height, joint range of motion (ROM), ambulation and strength tests (12-rep max) were performed in the GLCS and gym attire (GYM), with subjective (RPE, thermal comfort, movement discomfort and body control) ratings recorded throughout.

RESULTS: GLCS provided significant axial loading when standing but significantly reduced knee (-13), spinal (-28) and shoulder flexion/extension ROM (-34/-13), in addition to sit and reach (-12.8cm). No thermal issues were reported but there was an increase in subjective discomfort. GLCS did not significantly impede strength exercise, with the exception of shoulder press (15.7±4.1vs.18.4±3.4kg).

CONCLUSION: The GLCS (Mk III) demonstrates potential as a countermeasure by providing tolerable, static axial loading. Furthermore, it may serve as a elastic-like strength exercise adjunct, which may have utility as a rehabilitation modality after further design refinement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-161
JournalJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Apr 2016


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