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Anti-gravity treadmills improve physical therapy

May 12, 2014

BME alumnus Steve Basta uses his biomedical engineering background to design the anti-gravity treadmill

BME alumnus Steve Basta uses his biomedical engineering background to design the anti-gravity treadmill

When it comes to exercise, running is perfectly natural. Unfortunately, so is gravity. The combination means that those who are overweight suffer greater impact from foot strikes than their lighter-weight peers. One way to address this issue: create a treadmill that effectively reduces body weight.

BME Alumnus Steve Basta

Steve Basta ’88

That’s the idea behind the anti-gravity treadmills created by AlterG, a California company headed by Johns Hopkins biomedical engineering alumnus Steve Basta ’88. Using technology developed internally, AlterG offers two treadmills that allow users to dial down what they weigh to as little as 20 percent of actual weight. The machines employ mechanisms that create buoyancy with air pressure, so each foot strike causes less jarring of the body than would occur on a normal treadmill.

The treadmills also show great promise in physical rehabilitation. Among the famous users of the device: NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Bryant used the anti-gravity treadmill to aid his rehabilitation from injury so he could return to playing form faster. The anti-gravity treadmills are coming down in price, but with a $35,000 price tag they’re still primarily limited to physical therapy centers. The centers use them for patients needing a range of therapy treatments — not just running but even walking for patients who have suffered a severe trauma.

AlterG also offers a robotic leg trainer that attaches to a patient needing assistance with an impaired limb. Basta has been CEO of AlterG since 2011 and has a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins as well as a master’s degree in management from the Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University. He’s spent his career in the medical device field and says the training he received at Hopkins prepared him well for the job — from understanding the technical nature of the products to developing an understanding of economics that has helped frame his thinking about market dynamics and the dimensions critical to success.

Michael Blumfield