Ever wanted to train in zero gravity without going to the trouble of leaving the planet? Good news! The space age braniacs at NASA have developed a new tool to help users recover from injury and increase performance with less impact on the body! In the 90’s, NASA began developing a pressurized method that would allow astronauts to maintain fitness during space missions because without the movement they were at risk for bone mass and muscle loss. The result was the anti-gravity treadmill, now sold as the AlterG.
The AlterG is not an at home treadmill (well, unless you have $35,000 to $75,000 lying around). These machines are generally found in physical therapy offices or University sports facilities and can be used during a session or often on your own if you are a repeat patient. A local office in Orlando allows patients to purchase their own shorts (see below) and simply schedule runs like gym access.
WHO USES THE ALTER G
During a test run of this treadmill, I learned some important information from the technician about the wide variety of uses for the AlterG:
- Amputees use it to move more quickly on a new limb.
- Injured soldiers use it for rehabilitation.
- It assists patients with traumatic brain injuries in relearning gait.
- It’s perfect for elite athletes looking to increase foot turnover without impact.
HOW DOES IT WORK
AlterG’s treadmill looks like something from the future: a vacuum sealed bubble encompassing your lower body and the treadmill belt.
You put on a pair of tight neoprene shorts that have a skirt around the waist that zips in to the treadmill “bubble”. After putting on the shorts, you step in to the center of the treadmill and the case is pulled up to waist height where the two pieces are zipped together to create a seal.
The treadmill then measures your weight to begin calibrating the appropriate pressure for your body. At this point you can begin to increase the speed, just as you would with a regular treadmill and keeping it at 100% will feel exactly the same as a normal run or walk.
The the machine uses “unweighting technology” to remove pressure from your body and make it feel as though you are running on air. Using controls similar to incline, you can decrease the amount of weight on your body. The machine can make you feel up to 80 percent lighter.
BENEFITS OF WEIGHTLESS RUNNING
For amputees this is a chance to being practicing increased walking speed or running with a new limb without the fear of falling. It allows them to practice the movements and slowly gain confidence in their ability to move by slowly increasing the body weight on the treadmill until they are at 100%.
Due to the location in a physical therapists office, many patients are able to use the machine as part of a normal visit covered by insurance or for their normal co-pay. I loved hearing some of the amazing stories the team was able to share about patients who returned to a complete active life after being able to use this machine post injury.
On the other end of the spectrum are the elite athletes who have begun to gravitate (yep, pun intended) to the AlterG.
- For the elite endurance runner, a frequent concern is the impact of pounding the pavement for so many miles every single week. This machine allows them to maintain mileage on easy runs with a slight relief on their joints.
- Pro-athletes looking to increase their speed have found this tool allows them to replicate a much faster leg turnover for a longer period because it doesn’t stress their heart as heavily.
- Athletes returning from injury are able to more quickly return to their old levels of fitness by starting with workouts on the AlterG.
- Athletes can practice a better range of motion by reducing body weight.
Runners World Editor-at-Large Amby Burfoot has said “The AlterG is the most significant advance in training equipment for distance runners in the last half century.”