Astronauts have been launched into space by NASA for more than 50 years.
As missions got more complicated and technology advanced, astronauts were spending more time in orbit. An astronaut might spend three to six months in space on average, depending on the mission.
The muscles and bones of these daring space explorers begin to atrophy without the literal pull of earth’s gravity.
Astronauts need to exercise regularly to make up for this loss in bone and muscle mass. Why is it important? Without physical exercise, their bodies, sooner than later, will start losing both muscle and bone density.
This results in a loss of size and strength, and because it weakens the astronauts, it may compromise their ability to carry out tasks in space. And, God forbid, they would need to be in excellent shape in an emergency so they could escape the danger as soon as possible.
Additionally, once the astronauts return to Earth, their weakened muscles and bones would make carrying any weight painful.
For these reasons, NASA (as well as other space agencies) has worked diligently over the years to develop strategies and tools to support astronauts’ physical well-being.
In the following decade, Dr. Robert Whalen, a biomechanics researcher at the The NASA Ames Research Center was tasked with developing a system for astronauts to exercise inside the space station.
A pressurized bubble that used air pressure to hold the astronauts down was one of the tools he created. Anti-gravity treadmills as a concept were thus created.
The procedure was straightforward. The astronauts’ lower bodies were initially enclosed in an airtight chamber where increased air pressure pushed them downward and created the illusion of gravity.
This, in turn, increased the astronaut’s apparent weight, allowing them to exercise at their normal earth weight.
This was a big step. With the previous devices, the astronauts could only train at roughly 60 percent of their body weight on earth. The astronauts could now recreate Earth-like conditions in space, however, thanks to the new device.
However, due to funding limits, NASA decided to pursue some of Robert’s other ideas, and his “air-pressure” controlled treadmill never really caught on.
Then around 2005, Sean Whalen, The treadmill that Whalen’s father had been testing was decided to be restarted. Sean wanted to make it possible to lessen gravity on earth rather than increase it.
Then, by flipping the air pump, thus, creating the opposite gravity effect, Sean designed the initial prototype of the anti-gravity treadmill as we know it today.
In the same year, the Whalen prototype was licensed to a company called AlterG, which seems to have come up with the term “anti-gravity treadmill.” For a nice image of this in action check out the AlterG treadmill featured here on nasa.gov
What Is An Anti-gravity Treadmill?
It might sound like a contraption from a science-fiction movie, but an anti-gravity treadmill is just a piece of highly specialized equipment primarily used in physiotherapy practice.
The machine is designed for people to exercise with reduced load on their joints and muscles. It works by employing air pressure to make the body “weigh less,” counteracting gravitational forces.
A system of pulleys and motors, which will be discussed in more detail later, produces this sensation when the user presses against the belt.
The springs will give the user the sensation of running or walking on air pressure, and the user can decide how high or low they want to go. Thus, the user is able to move at a speed between 100% and 20% of their body weight when walking or running.
Since antigravity treadmills are more technical than the typical treadmill, expect an in-depth console.
Strike force, cadence, stance duration, stride-length symmetry, and other complex statistics and data pertaining to the antigravity effect can all be monitored.
The Technology Behind The Machine
The reason anti-gravity treadmills can “manipulate” gravity comes down to the innovative “Differential Air Pressure” (DAP) technology that resists the effects of gravity.
Anti-gravity treadmills feature a bubble that inflates with air, then surrounds the user’s lower body. This gently lifts them off the treadmill which reduces pressure on the lower body.
You can therefore walk or run as though you weigh only 90 pounds if you weigh 180 pounds and use the anti-gravity treadmill at 50% of its maximum setting.
Do you want to know how it feels to lose 30 pounds? Lift 150 pounds while using the 84 percent setting.
The Actual Session
You will require special neoprene shorts with a skirt around the waist to operate the machine. Then, to create the vacuum, a pressurized, airtight bubble will be suspended over the machine’s surface and you will be zipped inside of it.
The air inside the treadmill’s casing begins to slowly fill up once it is turned on, creating a waist-high bubble that surrounds the machine and the user’s legs.
The treadmill then begins calibrating the appropriate pressure for your body based on the weight you are standing on it. You can be lifted higher in relation to pressure.
You can manipulate your weight by changing the pressure inside the bubble, which can result in weight losses of up to 80% in exact one-percent steps.
Your legs begin to feel lighter and the pressure on your joints decreases as you begin to walk. Even at a faster pace and an incline, running or walking may seem to be weightless.
The treadmill then functions as it always has. You can perform interval training while maintaining a pace of up to 15 mph and adjusting the incline. Weight-bearing exercises can also be done in a low-gravity environment.
Let’s now examine some of the practical uses for this incredible device.
Regardless of age or fitness level, post-surgery patients, especially orthopaedic procedures, require a long healing period in which various parts of the body recover at various rates before being able to locomote with ease and confidence.
For instance, when recovering from an After an ACL operation, you should anticipate having different walking mechanics for at least a month.
Here’s the good news.
Hopping on an anti-gravity treadmill during the recovery period can help patients walk farther with less stress on the lower body joints and muscles.
This, over time, helps improve their neuromuscular control as well as keep them away from a completely sedentary lifestyle.
Of course, you shouldn’t believe me. Over the past few years, there are many studies that examined the usefulness of anti-gravity treadmills.
One example is research that examined the impact of antigravity treadmill on balance during post-surgery knee rehabilitation.
The experiment included 49 patients who had undergone knee surgery.
Each patient was evaluated for a single leg stance on the injured knee on a floor during the first week following surgery.
After that, they were assigned to a control group or an AlterG group.
The AlterG group performed balance exercises on an antigravity treadmill with the resistance adjusted to a minimal or pain-free level once a day for five days a week.
On the floor, the other group engaged in similar balance drills. At least two post-operatively, all subjects were reassessed.
What’s more, the device can also be used to support balance and strength training in the elderly and enhance coordination and motor ability in patients with neurological conditions or disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
I could go on and on about the advantages of anti-gravity treadmills, but the device has drawbacks too, just like any other tool. Here are a few.
Anti-gravity treadmills aren’t your typical home or even gym treadmills. Costing around $35,000 to $75,000, they’re some of the most expensive training machines on the market.
University athletic facilities and physical therapy clinics are frequently where you can find anti-gravity treadmills. You can rent it for a single session; the hourly rate typically ranges from $50 to $80.
It Makes Training Easier
Thanks to the altered gravity, training on an antigravity treadmill is easier than on a standard one, research shows.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lower apparent body weight while maintaining the same running pace will result in a lower metabolic cost of running since impact absorption and resistance to gravity are the main sources of forward propulsion.
In fact, studies have shown that as support is increased, the metabolic cost plummets noticeably. Exercise becomes simpler the more body weight you unload.
So, is there anything you can do to lessen this?
Support level and incline are two things that the research has identified.
In an experiment, scientists examined the physiological adaptations triggered by an 8-week training plan on an anti–gravity treadmill at three different levels of body weight support of 50 percent, 75 percent, and 100 percent in healthy participants.
The researchers reported that training at 50 percent body weight resulted in a slight reduction of aerobic capacity in contrast to training at 100 percent bodyweight.
However, there were no significant changes after 75 percent body weight training.
Therefore, train at least 75% or more of your body weight at a moderate intensity if maintaining your gains rather than recovering is your goal.
The next step is to simply steepen the incline.
In fact, research has found that elite runners at high speed can reach their VO2 max with reduced bodyweight by simply upping the incline.
You ought to try anti-gravity treadmills if you’re dealing with injuries, want to explore more training options, or just want to train in a bubble (no pun intended).
Why Choose Anti-gravity Treadmill
Here are a few advantages of an anti-gravity treadmill.
Rehab And Train Without The Pain
You can train through an injury or recover from surgery on the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill without experiencing any discomfort.
While your body heals naturally, AlterG’s innovative unweighting technology lessens the impact of walking or running.
- Precise unweighting allows you to walk or run at anywhere between 20 and 100 percent of your body weight
- Easily select your reduced body weight where movement becomes pain free
- Give yourself the opportunity for a smooth progression back to full recovery
- Lower the impact on your joints and muscles during exercise
- Run or walk as if you’re on the moon—it’s enjoyable and simple to use!
Imagine Running 50 Pounds Lighter
You won’t believe how much fun exercising at a lower body weight is when you use the AlterG for the first time.
People who have used the AlterG say it’s like “running on air”, and “it’s so much more fun than normal running” and “you have to try it to believe it!”
The AlterG can be used in a variety of ways and provide a broad range of benefits, such as:
- Rehabilitating after surgery of the lower extremity (hip, knee, ankle or foot)
- Training through an injury
- Reduced impact training and conditioning
- Gait training for neurologic patients
- Weight control and reduction
- Strength and conditioning for older patients
Chosen By The World’s Best Teams And Athletes
The AlterG has been tested and utilized by top professional athletes and teams, including:
- America’s elite distance runners, such as Dathan Ritzenhein and Shannon Rowbury
- Top professional and Olympic athletes, like basketball star Gilbert Arenas
- Dozens of pro teams worldwide, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Manchester United
The AlterG helps the best athletes and teams in the world train and recover more quickly, experience fewer injuries, and improve fitness.
In order to strengthen and improve muscle coordination while putting the least amount of strain on their bodies, they also use the AlterG as a foundational component of their athletic conditioning and training programs.
You should give anti-gravity treadmills a try if you’re dealing with injuries, want to explore more training options, or just want to train in a bubble (no pun intended).