The weightless comfort of the International Space Station is a great vantage point for staring out the window. But that view comes at a cost to the astronaut's health. According to the preliminary details from an upcoming study, being in space for too long basically sets you down the road to Type 2 diabetes, says Ivan Semeniuk for the Globe and Mail.
The new results add to the laundry list health hazards from spaceflight, which include blocked sinuses, motion sickness, muscle and bone loss, a weakened heart and the altogether unpleasant experience of having your fingernails fall off.
As for the new diabetes connection, says Semeniuk, the problem is that living a weightless existence makes your body incredibly lazy. Astronauts work out while they're in orbit, but it's not enough to make up for the fact that, most of the time, their bodies aren't getting any of the exercise that comes from just being on Earth—walking or climbing stairs or simply holding your head up. The Globe and Mail:
“Is it a surprise? Not completely,” said Richard Hughson, director of the University of Waterloo lab that led the study. In the confined, zero-g environment of the space station, astronauts experience almost none of the daily physical demands required by normal life on the ground. “They are the most sedentary working population that you can find.”
Sedentary behavior doesn't just mean not working out; it's a special descriptor for the act of sitting around too much. As medical researchers are rapidly finding out, having a sedentary lifestyle is just awful for your health. Even if you do work out, too much sitting and laying down is associated with increased risk of hearth disease, diabetes and obesity.