Why the AlterG (Anti-Gravity) Treadmill Is A Top-Notch Recovery Tool for Runners
What would it feel like to “run on air”?
If you are a runner, and you have suffered an injury to the legs, hips, or feet, you might have found yourself asking the above question at one point or another. Or, perhaps you have reached your highest point of frustration due to one of these injuries–as all you could do is sit on the couch and wait for your body to recover.
If injuries have slowed down or stalled your training, the anti-gravity treadmill may be your new best friend. This treadmill, also known as the AlterG treadmill, was originally invented by Robert Whalen, a biomechanics researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, in the 1990s. His initial treadmill actually added weight (i.e. gravity) to astronauts’ legs while in space. This was important so that they could exercise in a weighted environment and prevent the negative effects of prolonged space travel, such as osteoporosis. Weighted exercise helps keep their leg muscles and bones healthy for when they returned home.
Over the years, the AlterG machine has morphed, and it is actually now used to reduce the body weight of a person on the treadmill by up to 80%. This has been a huge breakthrough in physical therapy and sports training, as injured athletes can now continue to exercise during recovery.
How Does the AlterG Treadmill Work?
To use the treadmill, first you put on a pair of tight neoprene shorts. The shorts have what looks like a skirt attached to them, and that skirt is lined with zipper teeth.
As you step onto the treadmill, you actually step into a hole with plastic casing. Then you zipper yourself into place. You are now encased in an airtight compartment. At this point, the treadmill measures your weight with a scale under the tread. Air is pushed into the compartment and your bodyweight is reduced. Your physical therapist can set the amount of weight reduction in as little as 1% increments. The feeling is is described by patients as if they were walking on the moon.
The the machine uses “unweighting technology” to make you feel up to 80 percent lighter. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you could feel as light as 20 pounds on the treadmill. The terms “anti-gravity” and “unweighting technology” are enthusiastic descriptions for what the machine actually does: The AlterG treadmill inflates the compartment around your lower body to lift you off the surface of the treadmill.
How Can Runners Benefit from Using the AlterG Treadmill?
Because the treadmill creates a unique, low-impact running experience, runners are able to maintain their typical gait–and continue to train–while recovering. The reduced stress on the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles allows the treadmill to be used for physical therapy or lower impact training.
Athletes are also able to increase training volume while reducing the chance of injuring when using the AlterG treadmill. In addition, this treadmill reduces the recovery time from “hard” workouts, allows for low-intensity interval training, and hill-training with up to a 15% incline. Backwards hill training is even possible with the AlterG machine!
Surprisingly enough, the AlterG treadmill was once only used for athletes who needed to continue to train while recovering from an injury.
But now, elite coaches are seeing these high-tech treadmills as a supplemental training tool for healthy athletes.
Paspa Physical Therapy is one of the few facilities in New York City to have an AlterG treadmill. We invite you set up an appointment so you can try out the machine. We want to make sure as many people as possible can experience the benefits of anti-gravity running!