United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Veterans Using NASA Anti-Gravity Treadmill Feel Like They are "Walking on the Moon"
Veteran Jesse Whitmier exercises in NASA-developed "air pouch" treadmill which allows him to control the amount of his body weight as he walks.
Veteran Jesse Whitmier exercises in NASA-developed "air pouch" treadmill which allows him to control the amount of his body weight as he walks.

A Veteran undergoing physical therapy at the Palo Alto VA Medical Center can walk or jog on an "anti-gravity" treadmill that uses a unique differential air pressure technology allowing the Veteran to feel as if they are "walking on the moon" by reducing the pressure of the body's weight.

When Veteran Jesse Whitmier zips himself into the huge treadmill air pouch, he feels like he is in a NASA lab, walking along with astronauts training for the next launch.

This latest innovation in Veteran care is at the outpatient physical therapy gym at the VA Palo Alto Medical Center. The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill is the newest addition to VA physical therapy treatment that reduces the amount of body weight on the knees by using air to "lift" the patient's body.

Veterans Use Treadmill After Surgery

"Most of my patients use it," said Lemmer Bustamante, a physical therapist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. "If we didn't have the AlterG, it would be hard for my patients to use treadmills after operations on their knees or hips."

The touch screen interface permits the therapist or patient to control the speed of the treadmill in addition to controlling the amount of their body weight utilized to maintain a comfortable workout.

"The AlterG treadmill allows me to do things I can't naturally do anymore," said Jesse Whitmier, a retired USAF Sergeant who recently underwent surgery. "I can continue to run like I did when I did track and field and even keep my weight down without pain in my knees."

Patients Make Faster Progress

Even though the machine has only been in the gym for seven months, Bustamante has seen much faster progress in his patients after using the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. "Previously, we used a pool treadmill, but the problem is you can't control the weight bearing," said Bustamante.

The AlterG anti-gravity treadmill is the first FDA-cleared medical device of its kind and is used by major medical centers, leading physical therapy clinics and professional, collegiate, and individual sports and fitness programs.

The high-tech machine is a prototype developed by the VA Palo Alto rehabilitation research and development center in collaboration with NASA and AlterG.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer