Introduction: Alternatively using gradient lower-body negative pressure (LBNP) and ergometer exercise (LBNP + ergo) under a flight schedule framework was explored to detect its orthostatic capacity maintenance effects in female subjects after 15 days of -6° head-down bed rest (HDBR).
Methods: Twenty-two female university students were divided into a control group (n = 8), an LBNP group (n = 7), and an LBNP + ergo group (n = 7). Ergometer exercise consisted of an interval exercise protocol with 2 min intervals alternating between 41% and 70% VO2max. Gradient LBNP was decompressed in 10 mm Hg intervals to -40 mmHg every 5 min. intermittent ergometer exercise and LBNP were alternatively performed. Tilt test was performed 2 days before HDBR (R-2), on the day of HDBR termination (R+1), and 5 days after HDBR (R+5).
Results: Fifty percent of the participants (11/22) did not pass the tilt test on R+1. The orthostatic tolerance time decreased from 20 to 16.1 ± 2.1 min in the control group, to 10.0 ± 2.7 min in the LBNP group (p = 0.01) and to 16.3 ± 2.0 min in the LBNP + ergo group. The HRs and BPs were at similar level among three groups during tilt test on different test days. Compared with the control group, the LBNP + ergo group had higher SV and CO percentage changes at R+1(p < 0.023) and R+5 (p < 0.00001) during the tilt test.
Conclusion: LBNP combined with ergometer exercises fails to prevent orthostatic intolerance but it induced some positive hemodynamic changes during tilt test after 15 days HDBR.