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Walking in the air: Testing Phuket's only anti-gravity treadmill

Walking in the air: Testing Phuket's only anti-gravity treadmill

PHUKET: There was a period during my childhood where I had the recurring dream of being thrown from one mountain top to the other and back again. Always at high speed, and always to ‘Got The Time’ by heavy metal band Anthrax.

By Jody Houton

Monday 1 April 2013, 08:59AM

Most people have had dreams where they are flying or walking on the moon. Things like that. But, unless you're me, rarely are rock ‘n’ roll giants involved in these aerial acrobatics.

I did however have the chance to live out a different childhood dream a few weeks ago, albeit not mine, when I was invited to try out the new anti-gravity treadmill at Bangkok Hospital Phuket.

The machine has only been at the hospital for a little over a month, and is one of only two in Thailand and the only one in the south of the country.

It’s used first and foremost as a rehabilitation device for those who have suffered leg and lower body injuries, utilising adjustable weight-bearing technology by controlling air pressure in a chamber to gently lift the user.

My experience started with selecting a pair of skin tight neoprene pants (maybe there was to be a rock influence to this after all) and then stepping into the treadmill. I write ‘into’ because once you are on/in the treadmill, you are zipped within the chamber (the pants carry a zip around the waist).

Once in, the interface and dashboard very much resemble a normal running machine, apart from the buttons that control how much air pressure or gravity you would like to ‘assist’ you.

QSI International School Phuket

You can control it in per cent increments and reduce the amount of gravity all the way down to 20 per cent. Any lower than that, explains Dr Kanyarat Jiambanjong, the head of the Physical Therapy Department at Bangkok Hospital Phuket, can have an adverse affect on the muscles and actually impair the healing process that many use the machine for.

Dr Kanyarat says that they have already had a few patients making regular visits to the hospital to use the machine. “We have a 69-year-old patient who has a knee problem who comes every morning for walking and running. He does around a 20 minute session. We also have patients with broken legs.”

However it is not just for those with walking difficulties, or muscle and bone damage.

“The anti-gravity machine can also be used by athletes and by those who wish to improve their general speed and running. This is because the air supports them and you can sort of floating without falling.”

Having experienced it first hand, it really is a curious and exhilarating feeling, where running feels like gliding and simple skips feel like striding. All I need now is a little heavy metal.

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