BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) –– Whether you love it or hate it, the treadmill is the one of the most frequently used pieces of exercise equipment.
But a new high-tech treadmill lowers the feeling of gravity and reduces the impact of your weight as you walk or run.
It’s designed to help people recover more quickly from lower body injuries or surgeries and to give a boost to people who are trying to lose weight.
Decades of running put a lot of wear and tear on Shannon Braun’s ankles. Persistent pain forced her to see a doctor.
“When I finally went in, got an MRI, the surgeon was like, ‘This is not in good shape, we have to do surgery,'” Braun said.
Braun had ankle reconstruction, followed by three months in a cast and another three months in a walking boot.
“It was a struggle to put weight on my foot and walk on it,” said Braun. “I was really nervous that something would go wrong, so the AlterG treadmill really helped to gain confidence back.”
She’s talking about the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill at the Institute for Athletic Medicine in Burnsville. NASA developed the technology to help astronauts make the transition to and from outer space.
A physical therapist let me give it a try, starting with putting on a pair of special shorts that connect you to the treadmill.
From the waist down, you are surrounded by an air tight chamber where gravity can be reduced.
“It basically allows the patient to have less body weight, or less impact on their lower legs so that they can walk and run easier,” said Heather Vander Weide, physical therapist.
“What this does is it takes impact off of the patient’s joints. And it allows for full range of motion, muscle activation. It can also improve their balance.”
As I ran, she dropped the gravity level to 50 percent, allowing me to feel half as heavy.
“It allows them to move in a pain-free, more normal movement pattern which allows their tissues to heal and again less impact, so there’s less stress among the joints,” said Vander Weide.
As she returned the gravity level to normal, it took a lot more effort for me to move.
“It’s fantastic. First of all it allows people to have a speedier recovery and it gets them back doing their activities of life that they like to do,” Vander Weide said.
Braun knew she’d walk again, but says she had no guarantee she’d be able to run once more.
“It was incredible in terms of helping me recover from my surgery,” she said.
The Institute for Athletic Medicine is a service of Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Medical Center.
Four of their locations have the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill and allow people who are not patients there to buy memberships to use the treadmill. Those memberships are between $100 and $150 a month.