Anti-gravity machine proves a hit at centre

tis  Ruby Kitchen in the anti-gravity machine at the Police Treatment Centre with Fitness Supervisor Juliet Finlay.  (121011M3b)
tis Ruby Kitchen in the anti-gravity machine at the Police Treatment Centre with Fitness Supervisor Juliet Finlay. (121011M3b)

An anti-gravity treadmill, loaned to injured officers at Harrogate’s Police Treatment Centre, has proved immensely popular.

It’s cutting edge technology. Designed by the geniuses at NASA, and used by long-distance legends like runner Paula Radcliffe.

But in reality, an anti-gravity treadmill is more like a pair of Wallace and Gromit inspired space pants. Zip in, crank it up, and run. Or in my case, float a little bit.

“It was invented for runners who were injured but wanted to get back to running,” said Liz Murphy, deputy head physiotherapist at the charity’s Harrogate base .

“It takes the weight off. It allows freedom of movement without impacting on the injury.”

The anti-gravity treadmill was initially designed for astronauts - until NASA realised how heavy it was.

It blows up great billowing gusts of air, making the runner feel light as a feather.

It works by controlling air pressure in a chamber to gently lift the runner, letting you lose stones in weight, albeit only temporarily. And it does make you feel sluggish when it piles it all back on afterwards.

In the six weeks it’s been on loan in Harrogate from Regent’s Park based company AlterG, it’s proved a huge hit with recuperating police officers.

“They are fighting over it,” said Juliet Finlay, fitness supervisor. “It’s been extremely popular.”

Harrogate’s Police Treatment Centre is a national charity allowing serving and retired police officers to rest, recuperate and undergo physiotherapy after illness or injury.

It was set up in 1889 after a young policeman, given a bed in a convalescent home, found himself next to a violent criminal whom he had previously arrested.

Now, as many as 4,000 officers visit one of the charity’s two sites every year, paying a contribution of £1.30 a week from their pay to attend.

The rest of the charity’s funding comes from donations.

For six weeks this autumn, the anti-gravity treadmill has been on loan to the centre.

In that time, it has been in use almost every minute of every day.

“We’ve had people come in on crutches, one lady had a broken leg,” said Ms Murphy, who works with officers from across the north of the country, including those within the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence.

The treadmill, which normally costs around £30,000, particularly helps people with achilles tendon, knee and back injuries.

“It’s almost like being in a pool, but you need a lot of strength to run in the water,” said Ms Murphy.

“It has a huge psychological boost.”