Cross Training For Runners

Anti-Gravity Treadmills: A Space-Age Solution for Modern Fitness and Recovery

7 Mins read

If you’re intrigued by the concept of anti-gravity treadmills, you’re in the right place.

These innovative machines represent one of the latest advancements in the world of fitness and prehabilitation. Anti-gravity treadmills have the potential to safeguard your body from injury and potentially save you a significant amount of money on treatment expenses.

Primarily utilized for injury rehabilitation, these treadmills have been gaining widespread attention for their multifaceted benefits. So, what’s the buzz all about? Stay with us to find out.

In this post, we’ll delve into the mechanics of anti-gravity treadmills, the advantages they offer, and how to maximize their potential. If you’re curious and ready to learn more, let’s lace up and dive right in!

What Is An Anti-Gravity Treadmill?

An antigravity treadmill, also known as a space treadmill, is a specialized piece of exercise equipment designed to reduce the impact and strain on the body during walking or running.

It achieves this by using advanced technology to create a controlled environment in which the user can walk or run while experiencing a reduced percentage of their body weight.

This reduction in body weight is often achieved through the use of air pressure and a specially designed enclosure or harness.

The primary purpose of an antigravity treadmill is to allow individuals, especially those recovering from injuries or surgeries, to engage in weight-bearing exercises with less impact on their muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments.

By simulating a lower-gravity environment, the treadmill helps users maintain or regain their mobility, strength, and endurance while minimizing the risk of further injury or discomfort.

This technology has applications in physical therapy, sports rehabilitation, and athletic training, making it a valuable tool for individuals working on recovery or performance improvement.

Antigravity treadmills are often found in clinical settings, sports medicine facilities, and specialized fitness centers where precise control over weight-bearing activities is necessary for rehabilitation or training purposes.

The Story Behind The Design – A NASA Invention

The development of antigravity treadmills is connected to NASA and its focus on astronaut health and fitness. Here’s the story behind it:

NASA’s interest in creating antigravity or “zero gravity” treadmills stemmed from the unique challenges of maintaining astronaut health and fitness during extended space missions. In the microgravity environment of space, astronauts experience muscle and bone mass loss due to the lack of gravity-induced stress on their bodies.

To address this issue and help astronauts maintain their physical health, NASA scientists and engineers designed specialized exercise equipment, including the antigravity treadmill.

The primary goal of these treadmills was to simulate “earth-like” training conditions for astronauts while in space. By using innovative technology, these treadmills could alter the user’s apparent weight, effectively reducing the impact of gravity on their body.

This allowed astronauts to perform weight-bearing exercises such as walking and running in a way that mimicked the conditions on Earth.

The antigravity treadmill technology not only helped astronauts combat muscle and bone mass loss during space missions but also had broader applications in the fitness and rehabilitation industries. Its ability to precisely control the percentage of body weight a user experiences while exercising made it a valuable tool for physical therapy, sports rehabilitation, and athletic training.

As a result, this NASA-developed technology found its way into the fitness market and clinical settings, benefiting individuals recovering from injuries, undergoing rehabilitation, or looking to exercise with reduced impact on their bodies.

Image credit – From Master Clinic Physiotherapy

The Exact Process

The antigravity treadmill technology employs a precise process that utilizes air pressure to reduce the user’s effective body weight, thereby alleviating some of the strain on their muscles and joints.

Here’s a detailed explanation of the process:

  • Air Pressure Differential: The antigravity treadmill features a sealed chamber or enclosure in which the user walks or runs. This chamber is equipped with a system that can manipulate air pressure differentials.
  • User’s Position: The user stands or walks on a treadmill within this chamber, with their lower body, typically from the waist down, enclosed in the lower part of the chamber. The upper body remains in the atmospheric pressure outside the enclosure.
  • Creating Reduced Gravity: The technology is designed to create a lower air pressure environment within the lower part of the chamber, effectively increasing the air pressure differential between the upper and lower body.
  • Decreasing Effective Weight: As a result of this air pressure differential, the user’s body experiences a reduction in effective weight. In simpler terms, it feels as though they are lighter or experiencing less gravitational force on their lower body.
  • Reducing Impact: By lowering the effective weight, the antigravity treadmill significantly reduces the impact forces on the user’s muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments during walking or running. Research has indicated that it can reduce impact by approximately 80 percent.
  • Adjustable Control: The level of reduced weight or “unloading” can typically be adjusted to meet the user’s specific needs. Users can control how much body weight they want to support during their exercise or rehabilitation session.

Easy To Use – The Step By Step

Begin by putting on a pair of special shorts designed for use with the anti-gravity treadmill. These shorts are typically made from neoprene and are worn over your regular clothing. The shorts feature either a single zipper or a double zip.

Enter the chamber of the anti-gravity treadmill, which resembles a large bubble or enclosure. This chamber is where the “unloading” of your body weight will take place. As you step inside, you’ll be zipped into the inflatable chamber.

As you are zipped into the chamber, a waist skirt around your waist area is secured to create a sealed environment. This skirt helps maintain the air pressure differential needed for the unloading process.

Once securely inside, you can select your desired gravitational resistance levels. This step allows you to adjust the intensity of your workout or rehabilitation session. By altering these levels, you can make the exercise more or less challenging, depending on your goals and needs.

As you adjust the gravitational resistance levels, you may feel a sensation akin to being lifted or lightened due to the differential air pressure technique at work. This technique creates a reduction in your effective body weight.

The anti-gravity treadmill allows you to fine-tune the unloading process. You can customize the amount of body weight you wish to support during your exercise session. This can be adjusted in small increments until you find the level that suits your comfort and fitness requirements.

Additional Source – Check this treadmill pace chart

So, how does this help the rehabilitation?

Nowadays, the technology is used by medical facilities around the globe,  the military, and professional athletes and sports teams.

The technology works well for a wide range of people—neurologic and orthopedic patients, world-class athletes, and those seeking to improve their fitness without the added impact.

How come?

Simple. By reducing the impact stresses on the body, the patients can perform rehabilitation with less pain.

That’s why the technology is often used with patients seeking to gain strength, mobility, full range of movement, and fitness while also reducing the impact on injury or on the body.

As a runner, the anti-gravity treadmill may help a lot if you have any of the following injuries:

The Applications Of Anti-Gravity Treadmills

Anti-gravity treadmills offer a wide range of applications for runners and individuals seeking rehabilitation or performance enhancement.

Here are some key applications of these treadmills:

  • Surgery Recovery: Anti-gravity treadmills can aid in the recovery process for individuals who have undergone surgery. By reducing the impact on the body and allowing patients to walk with a normal gait sooner, these machines help prevent the development of improper movement patterns due to post-operative pain and discomfort.
  • Injury Rehabilitation: Injured runners can continue their training and rehabilitation using anti-gravity treadmills without exacerbating their injuries. By training at a reduced percentage of their body weight (e.g., 20%), individuals with conditions like shin splints or runner’s knee can maintain their fitness and mobility while minimizing stress on injured areas.
  • Athletic Performance Enhancement: Anti-gravity treadmills are not limited to rehabilitation; they can also be used to enhance athletic performance. Athletes can incorporate interval training, hill repetitions, plyometric exercises, lateral training, and agility drills while running at a fraction of their body weight. This allows for targeted training and performance improvements with reduced impact.
  • Balance Training: The technology is highly effective for individuals with neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cerebral palsy, and incomplete spinal cord injuries. Anti-gravity treadmills provide a safe and controlled environment for balance training and gait improvement, helping individuals with neurological conditions enhance their mobility and stability.
  • Fitness and Conditioning: Even for healthy individuals, anti-gravity treadmills can be used to vary training routines, reduce impact-related fatigue, and promote overall fitness and conditioning. By adjusting the unloading percentage, runners can modify their workouts to match their goals and preferences.
  • Rehabilitation for Various Injuries: These treadmills are beneficial for a wide range of injuries, including those affecting the lower extremities (e.g., ankle sprains) and the spine. They provide a low-impact training environment that supports the healing process while allowing patients to stay active.
  • Gait Analysis and Correction: Anti-gravity treadmills can be used in gait analysis and correction programs. Healthcare professionals can observe and analyze an individual’s walking or running patterns while adjusting the unloading percentage to identify and address gait abnormalities or imbalances.

Additional Resource- Your guide to curved treadmills

The Cost of Anti-Gravity Treadmills

The price of an anti-gravity treadmill can vary significantly depending on the specific model and its features. These machines typically range from $35,000 to $70,000 or more.

Due to their high cost, anti-gravity treadmills are not commonly found in most homes. They are more commonly found in clinical and rehabilitation facilities, sports medicine centers, and professional training environments. Even in these settings, there may be a limited number of machines available, leading to potential waiting times for sessions.

Booking A Session

Cannot afford an anti-gravity treadmill? No problem. Many clinics, physiotherapy practices, and sports medicine facilities offer sessions on these machines.

The cost for a session typically ranges from $25 to $30 for a 30-minute session. This allows individuals to access the benefits of the technology without the need for ownership.

Additional resource – Here’s your guide to buying a used treadmill.

Are Anti-Gravity Treadmills For You?

Anti-gravity treadmills have versatile applications. They are used in clinical and rehabilitation settings to aid in recovery and therapy for patients with various injuries and conditions. They can also be used by athletes for performance enhancement and injury prevention. Additionally, these machines are suitable for individuals looking to engage in low-impact exercise and improve their fitness.

These treadmills enable users to improve endurance, strength, and mobility without subjecting their bodies to excessive stress. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who want to enhance their fitness levels while minimizing the risk of injury.

What’s more?

Research, such as the study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, has shown that individuals can reach their VO2 max and maximum heart rate on anti-gravity treadmills. This suggests that these machines can provide an effective cardiovascular workout.

Additional Resource  – When to replace a treadmill belt

Featured image credit – from Toronto Physiotherapy

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