A few years ago I had the opportunity to try a prototype of a new anti-gravity treadmill that was originally developed at NASA Ames Research Center for astronauts. Now a newer, “cheaper” model developed by AlterG is being marketed to physical therapy clinics, athletic departments, hospitals and even nursing homes.
This device features a pneumatic , “un-weighting device” that uses air pressure to counteract body weight during exercise, allowing users to walk or run without impact or pain. Basically, the AlterG treadmill contains a bag-like waist-height enclosure that you zip yourself into. The enclosure is then inflated to reduce the force of gravity on your legs up to 80 percent. Injured athletes can use it to continue training while reducing forces on tendons, muscles and bones, gradually increasing the impact during the healing process. The AlterG can also be useful in helping older adults recover from a broken hip or femur or to re-learn gait training after a stroke without the risk of falling.
By why rely on this expensive new technology when the same benefits can be had in deep water. For, at $24,500 per machine, this anti-gravity treadmill is cost-prohibitive for most individuals and is even a luxury for most rehab centers. Actually the AlterG is similar in price and concept to an underwater treadmill. I was fortunate to be able to use an underwater treadmill in my work as an aquatic therapist at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, AZ. But, again, a much more cost-effective and versatile way of rehabilitating injuries and facilitating healing is to head to the deep end of the nearest swimming pool (preferably a warm pool).