Anti-gravity treadmill helps athletes recover faster - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Anti-gravity treadmill helps athletes recover faster

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Angie DeFilippi is suiting up for a run.

"Before Angie gets in the AlterG she's going to get into a pair of these neoprene shorts, which will allow us to zipper her into the Alter G to create an airtight seal," explained Brian Loeffler of On Track Health and Fitness.

That airtight seal is important as DeFilippi recovers from surgery last fall on her Achilles tendon. An accomplished triathlete, DeFilippi has been unable to run until just over a week ago when she was zipped into this anti-gravity treadmill for the first time. The machine calculates DeFilippi's body weight and depending on the load she wants to run with, air will be pumped inside accordingly, whether it puts her at 20, 40, or 80 percent of her body weight. It provides precise weight bearing measurements.

"That air pressure as the bag fills up is what will lift her as she's running," Loeffler said.

It's like running on the moon. And in fact, the technology behind the treadmill stems from NASA research. AlterGs are now in the training rooms of most professional sports teams nationwide. There are just two in Vermont-- the first here at On Track Health and Fitness in Burlington, co-owned by physical therapist Brian Loeffler.

"So with this, when you get into it, the mechanics are exactly the same as when you run on land except that you're not getting the same impact force of gravity," Loeffler said.

So a person in recovery can strengthen their muscles and move in the same fashion pain-free. It's improving recovery times dramatically.

"Over time this will allow us to measure progress of a patient. We start a patient at 20 percent and in three weeks they can tolerate 30 percent; we can see the actual progress and we can measure the progress and show the increased strength over time," Loeffler said.

That's exactly what's happened with DeFilippi, who is rapidly adding more weight as she recovers. Her sights are now set on a competition in May.

"Basically, without this I would've given up on trying to race in May, I think. The window would have closed and I'd have to make new plans," she said.

The AlterG has made all the difference. And experts say this cutting-edge physical therapy isn't just for the injured, it benefits the elderly and elite athletes as well.

The other anti-gravity treadmill in Vermont is located in Bennington. Loeffler says its use in physical therapy is covered by most insurance companies.

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