First there was space…
In the 1960s, NASA started sending astronauts into space. At first, people spent only a short period of time outside the earth’s gravitational pull.
However, after the International Space Station was introduced, astronauts started extending their stay. The zero gravity environment began causing weight loss, muscle atrophy, and decreased bone density. NASA was learning that exercising is hard when you can’t keep your feet on the ground!
To solve this problem, Dr. Robert Whalen, a NASA engineer, was tasked with developing a way for astronauts to exercise in space. He came up with a few options for NASA to consider, including a concept with a pressurized bubble that held astronauts down on a treadmill using air-pressure.
Just flip the pump!
While NASA decided to pursue one of Robert’s other ideas, his son Sean took a liking to his father’s concept of an air-pressure controlled treadmill. However, instead of adding gravity to run in space, he wanted to defy gravity to run on earth. By simply flipping the air pump, Sean created the concept for the Anti-Gravity Treadmill. While his father’s treadmill pulled the user onto the treadmill with a pressure-vacuum, Sean’s idea used air pressure to gently life the user off of the treadmill!
Sean and his father decided to make this idea a reality and went to work in their family’s garage in Palo Alto to develop the technology for what would become the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill. After many months of trial and error, Sean created the first working prototype in 2005.
Time to bring in the professionals
Before the first prototype was even finished, Alberto Salazar (an Olympic runner and coach of the best runners in the world) heard about the technology and wanted to help develop it for his athletes to use. He saw the ability to unweight a runner and reduce the impact of training as an invaluable tool for any competitive long distance runner.
Alberto Salazar began using the prototype with his athletes, including 10,000m Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp (see picture). After Salazar and his athletes got on board, local Bay Area teams like the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors started using the prototype in their training rooms.
AlterG becomes AlterG
In 2007, AlterG sold its first commercial unit to the Washington Wizards. Soon after, other NBA, NFL, and universities started defying gravity, too.
While today’s Anti-Gravity Treadmills look different than the prototype, the concept behind the magic remains the same. By creating a pressurized lifting force around the lower half of the body, the “differential air pressure” can be controlled to produced a variable lifting force for someone to walk, run, and exercise with reduced and adjustable impact.