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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 May;112(10):1735-43. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00019.2012. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Effect of rowing ergometry and oral volume loading on cardiovascular structure and function during bed rest.

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  • 1Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, Dallas, TX 75231, USA.


This study examined the effectiveness of a short-duration but high-intensity exercise countermeasure in combination with a novel oral volume load in preventing bed rest deconditioning and orthostatic intolerance. Bed rest reduces work capacity and orthostatic tolerance due in part to cardiac atrophy and decreased stroke volume. Twenty seven healthy subjects completed 5 wk of -6 degree head down bed rest. Eighteen were randomized to daily rowing ergometry and biweekly strength training while nine remained sedentary. Measurements included cardiac mass, invasive pressure-volume relations, maximal upright exercise capacity, and orthostatic tolerance. Before post-bed rest orthostatic tolerance and exercise testing, nine exercise subjects were given 2 days of fludrocortisone and increased salt. Sedentary bed rest led to cardiac atrophy (125 ± 23 vs. 115 ± 20 g; P < 0.001); however, exercise preserved cardiac mass (128 ± 38 vs. 137 ± 34 g; P = 0.002). Exercise training preserved left ventricular chamber compliance, whereas sedentary bed rest increased stiffness (180 ± 170%, P = 0.032). Orthostatic tolerance was preserved only when exercise was combined with volume loading (-10 ± 22%, P = 0.169) but not with exercise (-14 ± 43%, P = 0.047) or sedentary bed rest (-24 ± 26%, P = 0.035) alone. Rowing and supplemental strength training prevent cardiovascular deconditioning during prolonged bed rest. When combined with an oral volume load, orthostatic tolerance is also preserved. This combined countermeasure may be an ideal strategy for prolonged spaceflight, or patients with orthostatic intolerance.

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