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What does Zero Gravity do?

30 August 2022, by i-sopod

Let’s talk about zero gravity and what the effects of total weightlessness are, both physically and mentally.

When you think of an environment without gravity, it’s quite possible your mind goes to space exploration, and footage of astronauts floating around in space suits… You might be aware that zero gravity has negative health impacts for astronauts on space expeditions. So is floatation therapy really any different? Read on to find out.

Part of the training for astronauts at NASA involves time spent in sensory deprivation devices in order for the trainees to observe and adapt to the impact of weightlessness on their bodies. Whilst in space, astronauts are in zero gravity for extended periods of time, which not only takes some getting used to (having to relearn how to do seemingly basic tasks like brushing teeth, drinking and eating, and washing in space, for instance!) but also takes its toll on the human body.

The long term effects of being in an environment with no gravity, as the body strives to adapt to these new conditions, include reduced muscle mass, bone loss, cardiovascular difficulties, and fluid and plasma shifts in the body.

How then is it possible that time in a floatation tank, which is also a zero gravity environment, is good for the body? The fascinating thing is that short-term weightlessness can have totally contrary effects to those of extended zero gravity.

Here are the main benefits of short term zero gravity from float therapy:

  • Muscular relaxation.* When the body is totally weightless, there is no longer any strain on the muscles to support your weight. This means total rest for both muscles and joints, which isn’t achievable with any other form of therapy. This speeds up healing time for any muscular tensions and injuries, and alleviates chronic pain conditions too.

  • Improves circulation by increasing blood flow around the body, and lowers blood pressure.
  • Reduces blood lactate levels. Zero gravity combined with the high magnesium content of the float tank does wonders for sport recovery, by increasing one’s lactate threshold for training, reducing pains caused by lactate build up and therefore reducing recovery time. Read more about this here.
  • Good for the mind: weightlessness is proven to have some mental health benefits too. Studies have shown those suffering from insomnia, depression and anxiety to find relief from time in a floatation device, as zero gravity can induce a profound level of relaxation.

  • Transcendental experiences*: combining zero gravity with total sensory deprivation has some floaters going beyond the pod with their minds; many have had expansive experiences which have unlocked creativity and a newfound sense of mindfulness.

One major difference to be taken into consideration, is that when you’re in a float tank, you are still on Earth (even if at times it might not feel like it!). As obvious as that sounds, the difference between an isolated, incubated zero gravity environment, compared to being in a spaceship in outer space, is part of what accounts for the difference in effects.

The benefits of short term zero gravity on the human body and mind through float therapy are still being studied and explored in more depth. It’s quite possible that the vast difference in how weightlessness in a float tank impacts the body in comparison with zero gravity in space is to do with the other added variables, such as sensory deprivation and the high magnesium content of the Epsom salts. One thing we do know, is that the benefits of float therapy are accumulative, meaning the more sessions you do (on a regular basis) the more you’ll reap the benefits.

If you haven’t tried floating before, being totally weightless is something to experience for sure. Get to your local float centre to try it for yourself! Or, if you’re still unclear on whether floatation is for you, have a read of some more of the benefits