An anti-gravity treadmill is similar to a standard treadmill that’s enclosed by a surrounding skirt. The Alter-G™, designed by NASA, allows air pressure to inflate the skirt into a bubble, making the treadmill resemble a bumper car on steroids. Air pressure inside the bubble skirt can be increased or decreased to counter the weight of the runner to varying degrees. The effect is like running in lower gravity, extremely beneficial for professional training, medical rehabilitation, and many other applications.
The Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill does not limit mobility or cause discomfort. A user slips neoprene shorts over their clothing and then zips the shorts into the ring of the skirt, creating an airtight seal near the waist. Once inflated, the user maintains full ability to move, walk and run in a normal fashion within the bubble. A digital panel attached to an exterior frame serves as the control center.
The anti-gravity treadmill can reduce body weight all the way down to just 20% in one-percent increments. The effect of increased air pressure on the lower body is almost imperceptible. Normal atmospheric pressure is 15 pounds per square inch (psi). To decrease body weight by 80%, all that’s required is a bump to 16.5 psi. Manufacturers of the Alter-G explain this feels similar to standing waist-high in water minus the movement of surrounding water.
The main target market for the anti-gravity treadmill is in professional athletic training. Many teams including the Los Angeles Lakers and athletes from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, including U.S. long distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein, have reported the anti-gravity treadmill a useful training tool. The Alter-G allows athletes to run longer distances at faster speeds than possible on standard exercise equipment. By decreasing body weight and pushing the cardiovascular system, runners increase stamina while drastically reducing body impact, allowing for longer training sessions.
Therapeutically, the anti-gravity treadmill can get patients mobile must faster, building muscle tone earlier in the recuperative process by taking the patient’s weight off of injured or newly repaired joints, knees or hips. Applications for the anti-gravity treadmill also include those with muscle or leg injuries, and recuperation for the elderly.
Weight loss is another application for the anti-gravity treadmill. By making exercise easier, particularly for the obese starting from ground zero, a patient can build up his or her cardiovascular system, increase muscle tone and lose fat gradually and safely without adding stress to already weakened areas such as feet, ankles and knees.
The price of an Alter-G is beyond the means of the average person, costing between $55,000 and $75,000 US Dollars. Luckily, some top health clubs, gyms, medical or therapeutic centers near you might have one of these machines available. If joining a gym, beginning therapy, or facing foot, knee or hip surgery, you might consider checking for an anti-gravity treadmill before committing.