NASA technology is making its way into luxury gyms across the country in the form of an anti-gravity treadmill known as the AlterG. The treadmill allows users to walk or run with as little as 20 percent of their body weight. The technology was originally developed by Dr. Robert Whalen for NASA as a way for astronauts to exercise effectively, both in space and when they return home.This space-age machinery is ideal for people who are recovering from injuries or recent surgeries, or for those whose excessive weight makes traditional treadmills near impossible.
There is currently only one AlterG treadmill in Santa Cruz County, located in an unsuspecting medical complex in Soquel. Anne Howard is the physical therapist behind Bodies in Balance, and she treats patients regularly using the AlterG treadmill. According to Howard, the AlterG allows patients who would normally avoid treadmills because of pain, balance or strength issues, to exercise comfortably.
“I love getting elderly folks walking faster than they have in years without pain,” says Howard. “Some even get to jogging and that is a huge psychological boost.”
Lynette, a 63-year-old patient of Howard’s, sustained several injuries after a horseback riding incident three months ago. To use the treadmill, Lynette must wear special shorts over her regular exercise clothing. The shorts are topped with a large zipper, which allows Lynette to seal herself into the treadmill so the anti-gravity technology can go to work.
The treadmill emits a light whirring sound as its plastic walls balloon with air. Buttons allow Lynette to control not only her speed and incline as with a traditional treadmill, but also her percentage of body weight.
“Instead of the pain in my hips and knees and all the other places I’ve hurt, all I feel is the way my muscles are moving back and forth,” says Lynette. “It’s almost like walking in water, but without the resistance.”
While Lynette won’t exclusively credit the AlterG with her recovery, she felt a noticeable difference in her pain and physical ability after using the machine.
“Yesterday I jogged and walked for half an hour,” says Lynette, “and when I woke up in the night to get a drink of water, I was completely and 100 percent pain-free.”
Bodies in Balance, 3121 Park Ave., Ste. K, Soquel, 464-8809, in-balance.com/BUNZ.HTM.