NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Have you ever wondered what it would be like to run on the moon?
A new device doesn’t repeal the laws of physics, but it does un-weight you while you run on the treadmill. It’s helping both injured athletes and orthopedic surgery patients get moving again, and it started with astronauts.
After weeks and months on the International Space Station, muscles atrophy and bones get thin and brittle from lack of gravity.
“So when they come off the space shuttle, they’re unable to walk with normal gate mechanics. If they stood, often times they would just collapse from lack of strength,” said physical therapist Brad Gilden of Elite Health Services.
The anti-gravity treadmill called the AlterG was originally developed for NASA to help astronauts transition back to earth-normal gravity.
“You can develop a program where you’re starting with 80-percent of the weight removed and then slowly introduce 70-percent of your weight back, 65-percent of your weight back, until the walking mechanics are normalized,” Gilden said.
Running at half his weight was something Dr. Max Gomez was eager to try. First, he had to don neoprene shorts with a kind of skirt attached that gets zipped into the airchamber surrounding the treadmill. That formed an airtight seal and as the chamber inflated, it lifted Gomez, reducing the amount of body weight his legs had to carry.
The AlterG is not just for astronauts and curious reporters. Gilden said it’s really for his patients.
“A patient following injury does not have the ability to walk normally. By using the AlterG, were able to have them walk normally so it takes the pressure by de-weighting them. It takes the pressure off of that injured limb that they can now learn to walk normally,” he said.
Clare Zecher is a tri-athlete who broke a bone in her foot during training. She said the AlterG allowed her to keep training while she was rehabbing her injury.
“I was able to reduce the amount of weight of my body on the treadmill so that I could run again with no pain,” she said.
The AlterG isn’t really for your home or average gym, unless you have $34,000 lying around. It’s intended for physical therapy and rehabilitation centers so that injured athletes and foot, knee and hip surgery patients can get moving normally, sooner.
The AlterG and water treadmills are similar in that they both take weight off the injured leg, but with the AlterG, you can adjust the amount of un-weighting in one-percent steps.
Underwater, it’s a set amount of unweighting, depending on your body composition.
Also, the walking or running motion is more natural because you’re not fighting the resistance of the water and you don’t have the same maintenance issues you have with a water treadmill.
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