By Sasha Kolbeck, DPT | Graphic Design by Kistner Creative

The term anti-gravity can lead to thoughts of space. Dr. Robert Whalen, a NASA engineer worked to develop technology to help astronauts exercise in space to counteract the effects which lead to bone and muscle loss.  His son Sean looked to create anti-gravity on earth, leading to the concept of the anti-gravity treadmill in 2005, which uses air to lift or off-load the user’s body weight. Initially, the treadmill was used by Olympic runners, the NBA, the NFL, and at universities for their athlete’s rehabilitation and performance training. Now, it is found in physical therapy clinics for rehabilitation for patients that would benefit from decreasing body weight on their bones, joints and soft tissues.

Benefits of the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill

NASA Differential Air Pressure technology allows precise (less than 5% difference) adjustments of the amount of body weight (decreasing by 1-80%) for walking and running, which is especially important post-operatively when weight-bearing needs to be limited per the surgeon’s protocol to foster healing and decrease re-injury. The unweighting can allow earlier walking and running, as well as, with the treadmill belt not moving, lower body exercises in standing, with decreased pain and potentially quicker recovery. Research shows that ground reaction forces and muscle strain are decreased, but mechanics for walking and running remain similar.

Recover from Hip & Knee Surgery Faster and with Less Pain than Traditional Therapies

In fact, due to the ability to resume early gait (walking), mechanics can be restored sooner post fracture and surgery (Eg: knee or hip joint replacement, hip labrum surgery, ACL reconstruction, cartilage microfracture, meniscus repair, achilles tendon repair, and foot or ankle surgery). At Rose City Physical Therapy we treat a high total hip and knee replacement population, which research shows are aided by decreased pain, increased exercise compliance, and improved early function within the first 3 months of surgery with use of the AlterG®. For those with knee osteoarthritis that have limited ability to walk due to pain, quadricep and hamstring strength increased significantly, along with walking tolerance, and overall function after 12 weeks of AlterG® use.AlterG Treadmill at Rose City Physical Therapy in Portland Oregon

AlterG Treadmill in use at Rose City Physical Therapy

Increase your Athletic Performance with the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Athletes can use the AlterG® treadmill to return to or continue athletic performance by cross training to achieve cardiovascular fitness, build weekly running volume above that which they might tolerate on terra firma, and over-speed train; but with decreased overuse loads on the tissues. As they progress, they can taper the percent of body weight unloading to progressively load their system. Compared to running in water, kinematics with the AlterG® treadmill allows normal running mechanics.

High intensity interval training programs can also be completed using the AlterG®, but with decreased injury risk. A protocol has been established to achieve the same metabolic load, as with a traditional treadmill. Research using this protocol found a 3.3% performance increase after 4 weeks. Those running on the AlterG® had a greater improvement than traditional treadmill use, as it seems the decreased body weight, with increased speed, leads to optimal load.

AlterG® Treadmill Features

In addition to the bodyweight unweighting, the AlterG® treadmill provides a user-friendly intuitive touchscreen, incline and decline angles, backward walking (which has rehab benefits for restoring full knee extension and engaging the quadricep muscle), side-step walking for coordination, balance and early agility, and lower body exercises with the treadmill not moving. It also provides data on walking and running such as percent of body weight, cadence (step rate/per minute) and step length, as well as side to side symmetry.

How does the use of the AlterG® treadmill work? It is best to wear fitted exercise clothing on the lower half, such as running tights or spandex workout shorts, to allow a pair of the AlterG® fitted shorts to go over your clothing, and walking or running shoes. Also be sure to hydrate prior and during use of the AlterG® just as you should during any exercise. You will be instructed on how to put on the shorts and get into the AlterG® and the proper settings will be applied. Data can then be analyzed by your physical therapist and adjustments made as needed. Clear window panels on the side of the decompression air chamber allows for visual analysis of one’s gait and proper exercise.

The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill® can provide objective criteria for patients to begin running again sooner, and progress faster. Kevin Wilk of Champion Sports Medicine, discusses uses it as a precursor to allowing patients to transition to starting a running program.

Competitively Priced Packages for the AlterG® Treadmill at Rose City

For orthopedic and sports medicine patients, your physical therapist and physician or surgeon may elect to add AlterG® to your plan of care to assist in reaching your functional goals, which would be covered under your insurance. For the non-injured recreational, student, elite, and pro athlete, we offer a single use pay-as-you-go option, or punch cards that allow use in 15 minute increments. These are available at a discount versus the pay-as-you-go option, and come in a 20 pack of 15-minute punches (Eg: A 45 minute session would be three 15-minute punches).

If you are interested in the AlterG®, we provide a complimentary 15-minute session to introduce you to the use and benefits of it. Give us a call at 503.228.1306 or email us at to inquire about this.

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