Hi everyone, we would like to officially introduce you to the newest member of our True Fitness team - Dr Kiera Ward. Dr Kiera is an exercise physiologist and researcher who recently completed a PhD in Metabolic Physiology (read more below). We are so excited that Dr Kiera has joined the True Fitness team!
Research with the European Space Agency
Kiera’s PhD research, supervised by Dr Diane Cooper and Dr Donal O’Gorman (DCU) and funded by the European Space Agency PRODEX programme and Enterprise Ireland, investigated the effect of 60 days of 6° head-down-tilt bed rest on the physical (body weight, body composition, aerobic fitness and muscle strength) and metabolic characteristics (glucose, insulin, lipids and biomarkers of insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance) of young, healthy males.
Head-down-tilt bed rest is the gold-standard, Earth-based model of human spaceflight. It is used by the European Space Agency to investigate the physiological changes that occur in astronauts in space (loss of muscle and bone mass, reduced cardiovascular fitness, strength and functional capacity and metabolic dysregulation including insulin resistance, amongst others) and to determine how they can keep astronauts as healthy as possible for long duration missions! This model presents an opportunity to examine the efficacy of different types of exercise training (e.g. aerobic, resistance, high-intensity interval jump training) in maintaining overall physiological health in a time-efficient manner (astronauts typically spend 90 minutes per day exercising!).
The physiological adaptations in space are similar to changes observed in sedentary and ageing populations and those in bed confinement due to injury, illness or COVID-19. Therefore, head-down-tilt bed rest affords a means of mapping the time-course, and exploring the underlying mechanisms, of physical and metabolic changes and evaluating how exercise training can be effective in maintaining good health on Earth!