Running for Life: What is the Alter G?

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - What if I told you there was an invention being used right here at home that could turn the average person into a runner; keep athletes moving even when they are hurt; and help those without the ability to walk get back on their feet. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it's happening in Savannah. It's a treadmill, of all things, that NASA invented.

I heard about it and I was intrigued. I found it is far more than your average treadmill. It is the closest thing to space age as we will ever see. It's called the Alter G and it is nothing short of amazing. Physical Therapist Ernest Ledesma brought the first one to the Savannah area just a few months ago.

Since this is no ordinary treadmill, users have to wear Alter G shorts that look like tutus. Then the person has to climb inside and get zipped in.

Nothing could prepare me for the feeling. It's like running in the clouds. When I climbed inside and started my run, I could feel my feet hitting the treadmill, but there was no pain nor that jarring sensation that you get from running outside.

"It is a treadmill that uses an air system an air bladder system that helps you unload one's body weight off the treadmill deck. Once you do that, you are eliminating a lot of the ground reaction force and therefore decreasing a lot of the stress load on the body when an individual is walking or running on the treadmill," explained Ledesma.

That's makes it easier for people like me to run longer on the Alter G than we would be able to on the ground. Here's why - I can take as much as weight off my joints as I want essentially lightening my load. For example, if I weighed 100 lbs. and took off 50% of my body weight, only 50 pounds of pressure would be on the treadnmill deck. So it is as if someone took 50 pounds of your body weight off of you. The lighter load equals less trauma to the muscles and tendons.

About six months ago, Sandy Streater could barely walk trying to recover from two torn Achilles Tendons. He reluctantly listened to Ernie and gave the Alter G a try. "It has gotten me moving again because I had pretty much given up. Actually I used that as an excuse to eat and drink everything I wanted to," said Sandy Streater.

The Alter G has completely changed his life. Without even changing his diet, Sandy dropped 45 pounds. "I am running between 15 and 17 miles a week between 5 and 5 1/2 miles a day three times a week," Streater told me.

Ernie has helped many people as heavy as 400 pounds lose weight on programs he designed for them on the Alter G. "They're able to get into this wonderful fitness weight loss program to improve their fitness and work on their cardiovascular system and decrease the risk of injury," Ledesma said.

Streater is one of his many success stories. "Still I am not a runner, but I am addicted to that," she pointed out.

At least it's a healthy addiction that is warming up some very unlikely people to the idea of running. Meet Tammy Quirk. Like Streater, Ledesma is her physical therapist. This grandmother watched others on the anti-gravity treadmill and could not resist even though she had never run before. "I thought if they can do that I can do that. I asked Ernie if he thought he could teach me to run and he said no problem. I trust Ernie with my life so off we went,"explained Tammy Quirk.

Now she isn't just running, she's training to do something she has never done before. "I have a 13 year old granddaughter who is a devoted runner and I wanted to run a race with her. She has no idea I am training to run with her. This is going to be a part of her surprise for her birthday," Quirk said.

Whether it was a surgery, injury or just trying to get in shape that brought them to Ledesma Sports Medicine, the patients can all agree Ernie keeps them coming back. "I have come in here after surgery in terribly excruciating pain and Ernie will pick your spirits up.You are gonna get better here. He's a miracle worker. He really is," Streater said.

As you can see everybody loves Ledesma. This visionary who brought the first anti-gravity treadmill to the area is one of our own, a Claxton native, a graduate of Pinewood Christian. He's so happy with this machine he is able to help so many people in such a short period of time.

Tomorrow on The News at 6, we'll show you how the Alter G is specifically helping runners - literally run through any injury.

You can learn more about Ledesma Sports Medicine and the Alter G by checking out the Ledesma Sports Medicine Facebook page or call them 912.401.0443.

Ledesma Sports Medicine
340 Eisenhower Dr.
Bldg. 1400 Suite A
Savannah, GA 31406

Copyright 2011 WTOC. All rights reserved.