Fitness physics: Anti-gravity exercise on the rise


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The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill

Revamped routines and ever-improving equipment always take fitness to new heights – but are you ready to truly be swept off your feet?

We’re talking about anti-gravity fitness – the soaring trend in luxury gyms throughout New York and Los Angeles that has spawned machines like the anti-gravity treadmill, or Alter G, which lifts runners with an impact-reducing air cushion.

Along with this NASA-inspired machine, the even more increasingly popular trend of anti-gravity yoga – which has spread internationally – is flipping the world of fitness on its side (literally) with anti-gravity hammocks that can put a little “Namaste” in Cirque du Soleil-style stunts.

Benefits of anti-gravity workouts
Helping to reduce weight on joints, the Alter-G aids all practitioners from the amateur to the advanced. As such, marathon runners can train for greater speed and endurance with reduced risk of injury and obese clients can exercise unencumbered by excess weight.

On the airborne end, anti-gravity yoga’s low-impact silk harness – which integrates inversion therapy and combines yoga’s emphasis on strength and flexibility – provides muscle lengthening and body decompression.

Classes also commonly infuse traditional poses with acrobatic exploits.

“Many of the acrobatic moves are more about timing, physics and trust,” said Ariel Williams, a certified anti-gravity yoga teacher who conducts classes at Asphalt Green, an athletic complex located in Manhattan.

Williams, who believes that anti-gravity is more about trusting in your ability and body rather than being physically strong, said that zero compression inversions are the most valuable thing about anti-gravity yoga.

With the predominance of aerial techniques, users are inverting their bodies, but not putting weight on the spine.

According to Williams, this contraposition rehydrates your vertebrae with synovial fluid (possibly increasing height after several classes) and helps improve the circulatory and lymphatic systems along with posture.

Anti-gravity yoga. Photo by OmFactoryNYC.com

It’s an adjustment
While the classes can benefit individuals at any level, Williams admits that it can take some getting used to.

“It takes a little while to adjust to where you place the fabric on your body,” she said. “If you don’t know where to place the fabric and you’re scared of hurting yourself, you’re not really paying attention to what’s going on and you can place the fabric in the wrong place.”

Passing fad?
When it comes to staying power – just how does anti-gravity exercise stack up?

“The thing about anti-gravity yoga is that is gets extremely addictive,” said Williams, who believes that anti-gravity exercise will be very common in the next three to five years.

“Just like when you see a weight bench in the gym – you’ll see anti-gravity hammocks in every gym everywhere,” she said.

And while the trend hasn’t become that universal, Alter-G treadmills are now springing up in physical therapy offices and rehab centers around the nation, and yoga studios in Vietnam, Korea, Ireland, Russia and elsewhere now offer anti-gravity yoga.

If you’re thinking about taking a leap into anti-gravity exercise, Williams’ best advice applies no matter who you are or where you are: “Just trust that you are capable.”