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The Benefits of Using the AlterG Treadmill in Physical Therapy

March 27, 2018 | Mary Helton

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People say it feels like “running on the moon.”

The AlterG is the world’s first anti-gravity treadmill. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 and is now used by those recovering from injuries, athletes and even seniors.

The treadmill uses technology that was originally developed by NASA engineer Robert Whalen. The goal, however, was the opposite of anti-gravity. It was to allow astronauts to run in space by increasing gravity.

The concept never really took off at NASA, but Whalen and his son Sean built on the idea to create the AlterG.alter-g-treadmill

Here’s how it works: Users put on a pair of tight neoprene shorts that have an outer layer with zippered teeth. You then step onto the treadmill and, from the waist down, you (and the treadmill) are enclosed in a tent-like plastic structure that zips to the shorts you’re wearing.

From the waist down, you look like an inflatable bounce house. From the waist up, you look like an ordinary treadmill user.

Once you’re all zipped in, the treadmill measures your weight and then you (or your physical therapist) decide how intense your workout should be. This “unweighting” technology can make you up to 80 percent lighter.

The effect is that you can weigh 200 pounds, but you feel like you weight only about 40 pounds—at least while you’re on the treadmill.

Recovering From an Injury With the AlterG

You’ve obviously got to take it easy when recovering from injury so that your body can heal, but you’d also like to maintain your cardiovascular fitness and chase that runner’s high. The AlterG allows you to do both. Take plantar fasciitis, for example. Anyone who’s ever had it knows it can come back seemingly overnight. Running on an AlterG treadmill allows you to increase your heart rate and get your workout in, while still giving your feet the break they need to heal.

Elite Athletes and the AlterG

Numerous college and professional sports teams have an AlterG in their training rooms. That’s because the technology allows athletes to train longer, run faster, gain additional strength and enhance cardiovascular performance—all while minimizing impact and stress on joints. Athletes also use the treadmill to begin training sooner after an injury.

Seniors and the AlterG

The AlterG can help seniors regain—or maintain—strength in a safe environment without any risk of falls. In a way, it’s like aquatic therapy, but without the water. It can help obese people get moving for the first time in years, allow people with arthritis to exercise without pain, improve balance for those with Parkinson’s and allow even those with lower back pain to move freely.

That all sounds great, but you may be wondering if any of these benefits have been proven. The reality is that dozens of case studies have been done for numerous conditions, including third metatarsal stress fractures, ACL reconstruction, bilateral knee osteoarthritis, lumbar disc herniation, hip replacement, obesity and many more. You can review all of the studies and their results here.

The good news is that the AlterG treadmill is becoming increasingly common at hospitals, skilled nursing centers, rehab facilities and more. At Fisher-Titus Medical Center, we’ve seen firsthand how beneficial the AlterG can be for a multitude of conditions. Contact us today to learn more about defying gravity—and getting on the fast track to good health.

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