Six years ago a seeming tragedy transpired. Thirty-three men were trapped inside a Chilean mine. They were without food or water and no doubt they were all concerned that they would lose their lives inside that dark mine. NASA recommended that they begin a fitness program once food was provided to them. This is their story.

The Chilean Miners

Although NASA suggested that the miners begin an exercise regime it wasn’t like they had access to home gym equipment. So what exactly did happen while those miners were trapped underground? How did they maintain their sanity and physical well-being?

Fitness in the Mines

Reports show that the 33 men ultimately survived on a 2300 calorie diet. However, in the first two weeks of their internment, they shared some tuna, crackers, and milk. They all got two mouthfuls of tuna and a couple of crackers with a sip of milk every other day. Imagine the starvation feelings they experienced in those 14+ days.

When they were finally found, still trapped, 17 days in, they were given Supportan and some urine test strips to determine their physical well-being. The tests revealed that many of them were dehydrated and beginning the process of starvation due to muscle breakdown and sleeping on very hot rocks. They were instructed to double the amount of water they had been drinking.

The Rescue Begins

More Supportan was provided and their first real meal was cereal with applesauce and pears. The process of getting them back on real food had to be taken slowly. This is due to something known as “refeeding syndrome” (click this to learn more). Essentially, giving a starving person too much food, or the wrong types can lead to some very serious physical ramifications, even death.

After that, they were placed on a 2300 calorie diet and given the instruction to exercise daily for up to an hour or more dependent upon their personal levels of well-being. The problem, of course, is that most full grown men require about 3000 calories each day in order to maintain their current weight. These men lost around 20 lbs a piece.

As the time for rescue neared, they were all talking about what they would have as their first home cooked meal. The men longed for traditional Chilean food and were happily discussing what those first few bites would be like. If you would like to know more about Chilean food read this.

The Ordeal

Keep in mind, these men were trapped 2200 feet below the surface. They were in Northern Chile in a gold and copper mine. NASA suggested that they make three separate rooms while they were down there. One was to be the workroom, in which they were able to continue mining. The second was the bedroom, where it was to remain dark. The third room functioned as a community room and it remained constantly lit.

It was important to provide the men with some sort of daylight cycle. That way they could maintain the best health possible in their current state. To help them adjust to the trauma, they were also provided with anti-depressants. It is hard to imagine how troubling the experience was, but the men seemed happy and in good spirits. They had even created an area where they all prayed.

It is often amazing how powerful the desire to survive can be. We are so glad these miners demonstrated that desire with unwavering devotion. You can read more about the ordeal here.