A woman runs on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill
Sports / Orthopedic

AlterG: Running Technology that Gives you a Lift

May 7 2019

After a bad ankle sprain or running injury, walking or running can seem like an out of reach goal at times. But what if you could work your way up to walking, then jogging, and finally running full force by limiting gravity’s pull on you? Well, you actually can, with the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill.

Learn how Jackie went from down and out to back in the race with the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill.

Jackie Sanders, a physical therapist with Mercy Health, was training for a marathon when it happened.

“Eighteen days before a marathon, I stepped into a hole and sprained my ankle badly,” she recalls. While some might have written off the upcoming marathon given the loss of training time and the severe sprain, Jackie had a secret weapon in her recovery – the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill available at three Mercy Health locations in Cincinnati.

The AlterG looks like a normal treadmill apart from the fact that the running end of it is fitted with a fabric enclosure that creates an air chamber. The chamber inflates around a runner wearing special shorts that zip into the fabric to create an airtight seal. Once sealed, the runner can change the air pressure in the chamber, lifting to body to achieve a body weight that’s 20-100% of the user’s actual weight.

“The AlterG uses something called differential air technology,” says Rocky Tekulve, lead athletic trainer with Mercy Health – Cincinnati. “We can change the pressure in the bag to lower the force of gravity that naturally pulls us down and makes running an impact sport. The result is that you get a lift and can run at a fraction of your actual weight without the normal impact. In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds and use the AlterG at the 20% setting, you can run as if you weighed 30 pounds, greatly lowering the impact on your joints and muscles.”

The AlterG allowed Jackie to run with reduced weight.

After taking a few days off to let the swelling in her ankle go down, Jackie took a run in the AlterG to see if she could tolerate running on reduced weight.

“It went well and I was able to transition back to road running 10 days before the marathon,” says Jackie. Thanks to the AlterG, she didn’t lose much progress after injury and was able to run her race successfully.

“With the AlterG, I’m protecting my knees. Hopefully that means I live to run another marathon,” says Jackie, who notes that every runner wants to be healthy and have longevity in the sport.
“My next marathon will be my fifth and I’d like to run many more.”

She’s aware that all those steps – 750 to each mile! — take a toll on the body and also uses the AlterG for recovery runs, which are short runs that runners take a day after a hard training session to increase their resistance to fatigue, improve endurance and build miles.

“The AlterG is great for recovery miles, when your body is tired from the impact of running but you still want to get that leg turnover and the cardiovascular workout,” she says.

The AlterG is a great recovery and rehabilitation tool too.

This anti-gravity treadmill helps runners continue to train as they recover from the injury. The AlterG is also a great rehabilitation tool for patients recovering from surgery. They can begin partial weight bearing exercise immediately and reap the benefits of rehabilitative exercise without pain.

It can provide benefits for patients with a host of other conditions as well. For example, patients with foot, knee or hip arthritis that causes pain when walking can take part in pain-free exercise. Patients with metabolic syndromes, a group of conditions which include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, can use the AlterG to ease into a wellness and fitness program.  This could lower their risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“With the AlterG, patients with a variety of conditions, including post-operative patients, can run and walk without bearing their entire weight. This reduces the impact on their bodies so they can rehab better, train smarter and exercise safely,” says Tekulve.

Visit the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine page to learn more about the AlterG or other options for orthopedic and sports medicine treatment at Mercy Health.

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