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Unusual treadmill helps rehabilitate injuries

May 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
An unusual treadmill is giving people a lighter-than-air workout. It's not just good for fitness, but rehabilitating injuries as well.The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill offers a weightless workout as a way to make fitness gains.

"It speeds up the rehab process for all of our lower extremity injuries, as well as a great performance tool for our runners and tri-athletes," said Darwin Fogt of Evolution Physical Therapy.

Two months after Rich Hirshinger's double spinal fusion surgery, he was on the machine at 60 percent body weight, which many who are bedridden find exhilarating.

"There's a tremendous physical benefit, but I think there's a lot of psychological aspect to it," said Hirshinger.

On the flip side, tri-athlete Henry Hagenbuch increased his running time without the usual road trauma.

"After a couple months of using this G trainer I went out for the Wildflower Triathlon, and I posted the run course record for that," Hagenbuch said.

Fogt feels it's beneficial for most any type of athlete.

"They're still getting the same cardiovascular demand as they would normally, but much less risk of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, patella femoral - all the typical things that a long distance runner would normally anticipate," Fogt said.

Put on the thick rubber tutu, zip up, then puff up. A video camera reveals foot strike and gate, and the computer controls air compression and belt speed.

With this machine you can almost be lighter than air. With the air pressure control, you can reduce your body weight by 80 percent.

"Someone who may be a little too heavy, and it's a lot of tissue stress on the joints, getting them in here is again a way to un-weight them, reduce the pain in the joints, and that way we can get somebody who is otherwise unable to work out, walking again," Fogt said.

The AlterG costs $75,000, and there's a smaller model for $2,800. Clearly, taking a load off is pricey. Evolution in Playa Vista might be an easier test drive at $30 a session, with insurance covering those with a doctor's prescription.