How does an AlterG Treadmill Work and What are the Benefits?

The AlterG is an antigravity treadmill that is used to help support people during their rehabilitation. 

The AlterG treadmill inflates from the waist down, creating a feeling of weightlessness. Users can walk or run with as little as 20% of their bodyweight, and therefore comfortably run or walk where this might not previously have been possible.  

The AlterG can be used by anyone from top level athletes who are recovering from injuries, to geriatric, paediatric, and neurological patients.  

Benefits of the AlterG  

Letitia Rutherford, Sports Rehabilitator at AECC University College Clinical & Rehabilitation Services, explains how the AlterG can benefit users:  

“The AlterG is a fantastic and versatile resource that can be used to help people with a range of requirements. The weightless functionality is really helpful for people who have injuries and want to train without impact.  

“It’s also really beneficial for people who have recently had surgery, for example ankle, knee or hip surgery and are finding it painful to weight bear. 

“The weightless functionality of the AlterG gives the user lots of freedom in their movement. There are lots of different options: they can walk, sidestep, run, jump, and practice heel-raises.  

“This is really important for restoring confidence in people as they re-learn to use the affected muscles.” 

AlterG and Managing Pain 

Letitia continues:  

“The AlterG is great for encouraging good habits in people with pain. If you’re in pain, you might compensate and put increased load through the unaffected side. 

“Reducing the load, and therefore the pain, allows the user to improve their gait, improve range of motion, activation and use of the muscles.  

“For example, if someone has heel pain, they might not want to put their heel on the floor and they end up walking on their toes. The weightlessness of the AlterG can help them to correct this.  

“The AlterG that we have in the Integrated Rehabilitation Centre has a screen just in front of the user, which enables them to see their feet and allows us to undertake gait analysis. This is really useful if they don’t usually have a strong sense of where their feet are and means the user isn’t bending over to see their feet.  

“For example, if the user has suffered a stroke, the visual feedback helps them with their foot placement and the ability to show how much load is going through each limb, and assess their step length and cadence. 

“The AlterG is great for people who have been experiencing frequent falls. There isn’t anywhere to fall on the AlterG, as the user is zipped in, so users can exercise without fear of falling.”  

Case Study: Nicole McCarthy’s Story  

Nicole McCarthy is a patient here at AECC University College and is working with our Clinical Lead for Community, Long-term Conditions and Neurology, Katie Bright. 

Nicole has a rare variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and serious condition that affects the nerves. This syndrome mainly affects the feet, hands and limbs, and causes problems such as numbness, weakness and pain. 

Nicole currently has Physiotherapy sessions with Katie or Letitia Rutherford, Sports Rehabilitator at AECC University College Clinical & Rehabilitation Services, once a week at the Integrated Rehabilitation Centre and the AlterG plays a key role in her rehabilitation.    

Nicole shares her experience of using the AlterG:  

“To recover from my illness, it’s all about repetition. I can walk faster on the AlterG and that means more repetition; hopefully that helps speed up my recovery.  

“It also feels quite natural, which I like. Your legs aren’t strapped in, or anything like that. You’re just attached around your waist. The first time that I used it was hard going. My legs were all over the place and I felt like I would never get the hang of it. There’s a huge difference between how it feels using it now and then.  

“I’ve got more control over my legs now, as a result of the work I’ve been doing. That’s something that has been a big challenge for me; things like getting my legs over the side of the bath so that I can get in. Also getting in and out of the car is much easier now and I find it easier to use my walking frame at home. 

“I’m hoping as my fatigue improves, I’ll be able to come and use the AlterG more often.” 

Katie explains:  

“The treadmill aspect is really useful for building up repetition. In someone’s home, you can be limited by the space that they have available, whereas on a treadmill you can extend the distance for as long as is necessary.  

“Walking outside can be difficult, with uneven pavements and kerbs to navigate and obstructions to move around. It makes it even more of a challenge. 

“Nicole is making fantastic progress with her recovery and her determination to get back to doing the things she wants to do is really inspiring.”  

Find out about AlterG at AECC University College.  

Read a longer interview with Nicole.


Above: Nicole McCarthy on the AlterG