Evening Lectures - Pensacola

Joan Vernikos

THE TALK: Gravity is Our Friend: Health & Aging

April 6, 2016


We all know we are surrounded by Gravity (G).  Popular belief has it that G is the enemy that drags us down, makes everything droop and ages us. However the Space Age showed us that living in microgravity of space, virtually with minimal gravity induces faster aging changes than on Earth as witnessed by muscle and bone atrophy and a host of degenerative changes. Subsequent research on Earth showed that reduced G environments or inadequate use of G have shown that the body declines rapidly when G-deprived. It led to the description of the Gravity Deprivation Syndrome. This is characterized by a metabolic dysfunction broadly evidenced by insulin resistance, insulin-mediated inflammation, oxidative stress, ectopic fat storage and organ infiltration with disturbed substrate oxidation affecting not only mobility but health in general.

Conditions of relative G deprivation – sitting, lying down during the day, the reduced mobility of aging and other reduced mobility conditions, are a continuum on the G scale and respond in a uniformly similar way to G deprivation. For instance, sitting for periods longer than one hour at a time is an independent risk for poor health and premature aging. Neither continuous standing nor exercise is the solution. Long hours of uninterrupted sitting are not the opposite of continuous standing, nor are they the same as lack of exercise once a day. Far from being the enemy G is our friend, the universal force that serves as the stimulus, crucial to physiology, form & function.


Dr. Joan Vernikos is former Director of Life Sciences at NASA and a well-known expert in stress research and healthy aging. Recruited from Ohio State University by a nascent NASA for her stress expertise, Dr. Joan later pioneered research on how living in a microgravity environment adversely affected the health of astronauts. Her research led her to believe there were many similarities between the effects of microgravity on the physiology of astronauts living in Space, and the aging process here on Earth. In 1998 she was instrumental in the return to space of American hero John Glenn at the age of 77.  Bringing her ideas to the public eye, Dr. Joan has published a series of books that present simple and effective plans for maintaining good health throughout life. They include The G-Connection: Harness Gravity and Reverse Aging (2004), Stress Fitness for Seniors (2009). Her latest (2011) Sitting Kills, Moving Heals and soon to be released Designed to Move show how sedentary lifestyles contribute to poor health and early death and how movement that challenges gravity can dramatically improve health and longevity.

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