FOR THIS ARTICLE, Conal McGinley steps in for Dermot Simpson and discusses the benefits of the Alter G Anti Gravity Treadmill.
Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill
When NASA developed a machine that allowed their astronauts to exercises in space it inspired changes in the world of sports medicine and healthcare forever.
Spending long periods in a weightless environment would cause major physiological changes in the body.
Therefore while in space, astronauts would be harnessed into a specially designed device and a force would be created to simulate the effects of gravity. This had benefits in preserving the integrity of their bones, muscles and joints and allowed quicker re-adaption on return to earth. It wasn’t long before the concept evolved and in 2005 the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill was modified to have the opposite effect on earth.
The Alter G operates like any other treadmill except for one distinct feature – it allows the user to reduce the force of gravity during exercise, therefore reducing the impact through their joints. By selecting a bodyweight of between 20%-100% the user can exercise at a speed or gradient of their liking with reduced stress to the lower limbs.
Initially the project was funded by leading US sporting organisations such as the Nike Oregon Project and the Oakland Raiders NFL franchise with the aim to speed up the rehabilitation process of injured athletes. However, as knowledge and understanding about the Alter G increased so too did its range of uses and benefits.
The device was made available to the public in 2007 and in 2010 500 health facilities had one in operation, mostly consisting of private health or sport clinics.
Today, most professional sporting organisations have the device including all 20 premiership football clubs, the IRFU, the Irish Institute of Sport and Sports Institute Northern Ireland. Health services worldwide have begun using the Alter G including the NHS within the Royal Victoria Hospital and Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.
What are the Uses and Benefits?
The Alter G can be used for a wide range of people and for a wide range of purposes:
General Fitness / Training
Athletes commonly use the Alter G for both training and rehabilitation purposes. Healthy (Non-injured) athletes can use it as an adjunct to training or to manage their training load. Alberto Salazaar – well known coach of 2012 Olympic 10,000m champion Mo Farah and silver medallist Galen Rupp – has said that using the Alter G allows his athletes to increase their weekly mileage by 15%-20% without overtraining. In the same way, recreational athletes that train on the Alter G can expect to be able to run further, faster and have fewer injuries due to the unique weightless technology. It can also be used to facilitate recovery after a competition / race.
Injured athletes can use the Alter G to speed up rehabilitation and return to sport. Reducing bodyweight allows the athlete to train and rehabilitate with less pain and impact on the lower limbs while maintaining fitness. Typically injured athletes and sports people resort to cycling, swimming or some other form of cross training to maintain fitness levels if they are unable to run. Although these training methods can be useful in slowing down the rate of de-conditioning or ”loss of fitness”, it is not sport specific and inevitably a ”loss of fitness occurs” in relation to running. Using the Alter G allows injured athletes to gradually and progressively return to running at a lesser bodyweight, pain free, while increasing their aerobic running capacity. It allows for quicker rehab in a safer environment without the same loss of fitness. Representatives from the Donegal Senior Football team, Finn Harps FC, Letterkenny Athletic Club, 247 Triathlon club, Derry Spartans Athletic club and Jason Black – Irish Adventurer and Mountaineer are just some examples of local athletes currently making use of the facility.
Weight Loss and Physical Activity
The Alter G provides a safe way to lose weight or increase physical activity levels in people who are limited by pain, poor health, low confidence, fear or the weather! It may allow the user to exercise in a way that perhaps they never knew they could, burning calories without the same stress to the lower limbs, giving them the confidence and ability to walk or run longer while decreasing BMI. Naturally this type of exercise will also benefit other medical conditions such as Diabetes, Ischaemic Heart Disease and high blood pressure.
The Alter G is ideal in general rehabilitation and will become increasingly more popular within healthcare organisations in the coming years. From short-term acute injuries to more long-term chronic conditions the Alter G can help manage and improve problems relating to pain, strength, range of movement, flexibility, balance, general mobility and confidence. For example it may be used in a post-operative knee patient that is weak and painful or in an elderly person that has a history of falls and lack of confidence. From an individual that has suffered a stroke and needs to re-learn a normal walking pattern to a simple teenage ankle sprain.
One of the most beneficial and unique characteristics of the Alter G is that it allows progressive weight bearing. In other words if a person suffers an injury they may be advised to keep weight off their leg (by using a Zimmer Frame / Crutches etc) until it is safe to do so. The Alter G allows the user to gradually but progressively put more load and weight through the injured limb, in a safe and measured environment, which will optimise recovery.
For more detailed information and case studies of how the Alter G has helped other people see the links below.
Conal McGinley from Letterkenny is a member of the St Eunan’s senior panel and has been a physiotherapist at Donegal Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic for the past 18 months. He has a keen interest in sport and the management of injury. He recently completed a Masters degree in Sports and Exercise Medicine at the University of Ulster, specifically targeting injury prevention and rehabilitation. During the past year he has also worked with the UUJ GAA Sigerson team and with local sports clubs.
Riverfront House, level 3, Pearse Road, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal
Phone: 074 91 24424
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