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NASA technology comes to Ahwatukee Foothills

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Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010 12:00 am

For those looking to nurse an injury, maintain a New Year’s resolution to get in shape, or just feel like they’re walking on the moon, Spooner Physical Therapy Center in Ahwatukee Foothills is offering a new treadmill designed with NASA technology to let users exercise at less than their body weight.

The AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill was previously available only to professional athletes, but the company recently released a new model to aid the average person in rehabilitation and healthy living goals.

The center, located at South 40th Street and East Pecos Road, will hold an open house event Tuesday from 5 to 7:30 to showcase their new machine. An AlterG representative will be there to answer questions and provide free trial workouts on the treadmill.

Spooner acquired the AlterG early last month. Their Scottsdale location, near Desert Grove Avenue and North 60th Place, is home to another of the few AlterG machines in the Valley. This is the first treadmill of its kind of Ahwatukee Foothills.

Wearing athletic clothes and fitted tennis shoes, users step into a pair of the center’s wet-suit style shorts that slip on over their clothes and attach to the treadmill’s inner chamber. Once they step into the “cockpit,” staff zips the shorts into the chamber, and the machine begins to calibrate their weight, which never displays on the machine’s screen.

Then, the air chamber begins to inflate and the user can personally alter the gravitational pull, and choose to work against 20 to 100 percent of their body weight at 1 percent increments.

As the percent of body weight force decreases, the gravity-free feeling goes up. Walking at 100 percent body weight is essentially the same as training on a regular treadmill, said Michelle Babcock, a board certified orthopedic physical therapist, and clinic director at Spooner’s Ahwatukee Foothills location.

“It feels like you’re walking on a giant marshmallow,” said Tracy Hill, a physical therapist at the center, who used the machine to recover from a broken toe.

For the injured and those teaching themselves to walk again, the AlterG offers a safe, controlled environment, Hill said.

“Since you’re strapped in, you can’t fall.”

Before this technology, patients with similar injuries would be limited to seated exercises, or physical therapists would have to manually assist them.

“This gives them more empowerment and control in their training,” said Melissa Fowler, a client relations manager for several of Spooner’s eight Valley locations.

Recent surgical patients or injured athletes can ease into the rehabilitation phase quicker than they could without the machine because the machine can absorb some of their body weight, by absorbing pressure from their lower body.

“They can walk normally faster and earlier because they’re able to weight-bare more and retrain in a normal environment,” Babcock said.

Those using AlterG as a weight-control or endurance trainer can exercise without supervision. Anyone interested can register for a 30-minute session on the machine for $10.

In addition to six physical therapists, the center offers a hand therapist, a personal trainer and an athletic trainer. Anyone can come in for workouts with a personal trainer. Clients – who don’t need to be injured or post-surgical – range from kindergartners recovering from broken bones, to active young adult athletes and patients looking to nurse lower back pain.

They also many see patients with serious injuries to their lower body, as well as those recovering from knee, hip and ankle surgeries or replacements.

The center offers free workouts to those who drive someone to their physical therapy appointment.

“Our motto is ‘health in motion.’ We want to promote activity and motion to everyone,” Babcock said.

For more information on the open house and Spooner services, call (480) 706-3999.


Kathleen Gormley is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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