Sometimes when I was watching astronauts walking on the moon, I imagined in my mind what would weightless movement feel like in my body. I got some sense of it last week when I tested unweighted walking on the AlterG treadmill.

AlterG treadmill is originally designed for NASA astronauts to exercise in space. Lack of body exercise in the zero gravity environment caused weight loss, muscle atrophy, and decreased bone density. Alter G’s function is based on overpressure, which can be used to change the human body weight.

We ordinary people living under the law of gravity benefit from that, while the body weight can be reduced by up to 80%. When weight does not burden one’s joints and muscles, it makes pain-free walking and exercise possible. This helps to recover neural pathways and maintain health.

It is said that as a result of a stroke, impulses from the brain do not pass through neural pathways as they should. In addition, brain regions do not co-operate in the normal way due to changes in brain chemistry. Some doctors say that as a result, the brain has a chronic inflammatory condition. According to my experience this is a good term to describe spastic paralysis that does not follow any logic. Exercise may have a completely different effect than one would expect, while rest and relaxation increase overall fitness.

In addition to the symptoms associated with nervous system, bad posture caused by one-sided paralysis induce pain. In the early stages of my disability, walking was not painful, but over the years it has become more and more difficult. After walking on a regular treadmill about five minutes, the whole body is painful. I thought that the AlterG device would help this problem.

When I got training pants on and placed myself in a suitable place on the treadmill, the overpressure frame was raised and my training pants were attached to the tank with a zipper. Thanks to this, there is no fear of falling or knees collapsing.

My weight was lightened by 52%, which did not really feel like anything, as my feet were firmly on the mat. As more body weight was reduced, my heels began to rise from the mat to the air, as it happens when I walk in the water. However, the aim was that the feet are on the ground and the feeling of walking is as normal as possible.

We adjusted the treadmill speed to minimum, which enabled a measured stepping. While walking my problem is the paralyzed leg’s ankle, which wants to bend inward when the leg is lifted. However, on AlterG I was able to control my feet in a different way than when walking on a regular treadmill, when spasticity stiffens the ankle so that it does not obey impulses from the brain. Better control meant that I could consciously strengthen neural pathways of the paralyzed ankle.

I walked on the treadmill a while and when my left ankle began to feel tired we stopped the test. My back and middle body section did not feel the slightest pain. Only the arms were put under heavy strain during the exercise when I had to use them to support my posture. However, I believe that the exercise strengthens the back and hip muscles so that I can later maintain my posture without the support of arms.

When I finished testing the overpressure tank was emptied, the zipper was opened, and the frame of the tank dropped down. Only then did I notice the effect of reduced body weight: It felt the same as rising quickly from a swimming pool, which makes the body feel very heavy for a moment.

This is my new project. AlterG device makes longer walking exercises possible. The device should be available to me every day. Not that I must travel over ten miles to walk. However, there are unfortunately only few devices in use, as the basic model M320 for therapy and rehabilitation costs € 50,000 without tax and with accessories a little more. One can attach e.g. a monitor to AlterG to control pacing and correct any wrong moving habits, if necessary. For athletes there is the P200 model, which gives the possibility to observe and analyze the training in great detail.

It is also possible to purchase the AlterG device by making a leasing contract. Then a monthly rate e.g for a 5-year contract can be around 1000 €. Prices are indicative, because interest rates i.a. are changing all the time.

€ 50,000 is a big sum of money, but the amount of money can be seen in a different perspective, when we think that the national health care and social security institution (Kela) in our country pays the same amount and more for a three-week rehabilitation period at a rehabilitation facility for five-persons without any guarantee of results. During the years of its operation, the AlterG device is a joy to innumerable people, and its sporting effects are unparalleled. In my opinion, all fitness and rehabilitation service providers should provide their customers with the opportunity for unweighing exercise, which will make the pleasure hormones circulate also in bodies that experience exercise as a painful effort.

Read also: Body Weight Support Treadmill for Ortho Physical Therapy – Harness the Power of Data-Driven Unweighting Therapy (Brian Gillis): A Brief History of AlterG’s NASA Technology – The Early Years (Paty): The Gift of Running AlterG painokevennetty juoksumatto – Painokevennettyyn kuntoutukseen ja harjoitteluun

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