‘Anti-gravity’ treadmills speed rehabilitation.
While he was studying the biomechanics of exercise, Ames Research Center scientist Robert Whalen proposed using differential air pressure in space to mimic the Earth’s gravity to prevent bone loss and muscle deterioration. His invention has been patented and is used to rehabilitate patients needing support as they learned (or re-learned) to stand, walk, and run. After the patient’s lower body is sealed in an airtight enclosure, the system performs a calibration, adjusting to the person’s size and weight. If a patient desires more unloading—more weightlessness—a button is simply pressed on a touch screen, and the air pressure increases, lifting the body, reducing strain, and further minimizing impact on the legs.