AlterG Treadmill: Anti-Gravity Status
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk on the moon? While that’s pretty corny, it was the first image that popped in my head when I got an email a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to try out an anti-gravity treadmill. “Uhhh… yes please!” I figured it would be my only chance to feel like I was on Star Trek or Star Wars (insert your favorite science fiction show… Farscape anyone? ). I wasn’t disappointed!
Recover and build strength with the AlterG
We got a chance to check out a state-of-the-art AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at The Bluffs in Columbia, Missouri, where physical therapist assistant Josh Nickell answered all of our questions and let us give it a try. First of all, who would need an anti-gravity treadmill, you may be asking yourself?
Basically this awesome piece of equipment can be great for the athletes, average Joes, or the elderly out there.
What the Heck Is It?
The AlterG treadmill is like a really souped-up normal treadmill or the Bentley of treadmills. It looks pretty crazy when it’s in use – like a big bubble covering half a normal treadmill.
These treadmills are starting to gain popularity because they are so beneficial in helping folks (especially athletes and the elderly) recover from injuries such as hip or knee surgeries (think total hip replacement or ACL repairs).
They are great for this because it allows the patients to go through the motion of walking without all of the pressure from their bodyweight pushing down!
As Josh explained, “We can determine and can take up to 80% [off] of a patients weight.” Taking this significant weight off your joints can make it feel like you are barely touching the ground!
The set up is pretty awesome. You put on what is basically half of a scuba wet-suit and then you are zipped into the AlterG treadmill.
It then works by filling a big airtight bubble up with air and continually blowing it in to take your weight off you. “The [wet-suit] shorts with the bag pretty much give you an air-tight seal and the constant blower keeps the pressure in the bag at what we need it,” Josh explained. As it starts to inflate it calibrates your body weight so it knows exactly how much weight to “give you” so to speak.
By calibrating to your specific body weight, it knows for instance what 80% of your bodyweight is so it can only give you 20%.
From there, you can increase the plane of the treadmill (incline walking) to make sure you are getting good traction and foot contact.
Plus, it has several cameras to look at your gait, foot placement, foot contact…etc. Oh yeah, you also have a certified pro right by your side the entire time which helps to minimize the anxiety and apprehension to even get it in! Safety is a big issue when it comes to this machine and helping patients feel comfortable as Josh explained, “Often times our patients are a little apprehensive to get into it… but once we get them in and get them comfortable in it and show them how safe they are in the machine, then our patients really really thrive in it!”
What’s It Like?
The feeling of walking or running on only 20% of your bodyweight is simply strange at first. It literally made me kind of giddy and nervous.
This is probably a common response because when the heck are you ever only on 20% of your bodyweight?
When the treadmill is flat it feels like you are barely touching your toes at all which is where putting the treadmill at more of an incline comes into play to increase your foot contact. From that point, it feels like you are basically floating across the surface of the treadmill.
Just 5 minutes on the AlterG treadmill and you can easily see (and feel) how this can be a vital tool for anyone coming back from an injury or looking to improve their endurance!
This makes it a great tool to help people come back from surgeries by gradually increasing the weight they are putting on their joints (and range of motion) as their strength improves.
Plus, gradually increasing the duration of the sessions can help increase their endurance. This also makes it a great alternative training method for the professional athletes out there!
Try It Yourself
While there are a limited number of AlterG treadmills throughout the country (which is increasing), if you are looking to add it to your post-surgery plan (of course talk to your physical therapist) or even just want to give it a try, you can purchase a session by finding one close to you. You can do this by checking out the AlterG website.
This machine is seriously making a difference as Josh explained, “We had a patient who came in with a spinal cord injury that couldn’t wiggle a toe when she came in. In the past week we had her in there [on the AlterG treadmill] and yesterday I think she walked for 15 minutes at 50% of her weight…”
So a lot of good things are happening because we have this!
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