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Maria Sjöberg

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About me

Improving strength training on Earth and in space

With my background as a biomedical engineer I combine the sciences of technology and physiology to do research on strength training, and specifically on strength training for astronauts.

Bringing people to Mars is not only about powerful spacecrafts and advanced techniques – it is also to a great extent about protecting the human from the unfriendly environment that space provides. Being weightless in space raises concerns as muscles and bones need stimulation by mechanical loading not to deteriorate. To counteract the losses of muscle and bone mass during spaceflight the astronauts have to strength train daily. But how is it possible to strength train if weights have no weight? Luckily, several alternative methods to generate load exist and one such method uses the inertia of a flywheel, instead of gravity, to provide resistance for exercise.

To develop exercises with the best possible effect and the lowest injury risk, it is valuable to be able to predict how the distribution of body loads in space will be in beforehand. The goals of my research are, therefore, to identify the loads that arise within the body during exercise using a flywheel exercise device and to predict how they would be in space. Instead of measuring loads with sensors placed inside the joints of a human body it is possible to compute them using the theories of biomechanics. I am doing this by experimentally registering motion and external force data when people exercise in the KTH MoveAbility lab and then I input this data into a musculoskeletal modelling software, where I can compute body loads and simulate weightlessness. Besides being important information when designing future space exercise, my work will also be valuable for athletes using the flywheel training method, as my results also reveal new and interesting information about exercise loads on Earth.