Meg Farris / Eyewitness News Medical Reporter
METAIRIE, LA - Space age technology has come to New Orleans and Metairie and it's helping local people lose weight and do simple movements they haven't been able to do for years.
Now they are pain free.
Angel Stormo is approaching 50. That upcoming birthday milestone made her take a look at her life and future.
"My highest weight was 300 (pounds.) I was a size 28," said Stormo.
In September, she began a diet. In December, she had gastric sleeve surgery to make her stomach smaller. But something important was missing. She could not exercise because of surgery complications that put her in the hospital and joint pain.
"I had always walked. I walked the park probably five days a week. When I blew out my knee, the weight started going on, vicious cycle, you can't really exercise," she said.
Her weight loss hit a plateau, until she became one of the latest people to try space age technology created by NASA.
"It was amazing. The first day I got on it, I did about two and a half, 2.5 miles an hour for 30 minutes. I have not walked in 10 years," Stormo said happily.
Picture the astronauts walking on the moon. There is less gravity than on earth to pull their body weight down, so they feel lighter and walk and bounce more easily. Well that's exactly what's happening here on the Alter G treadmill.
Weight loss brought Stormo from a size 28 to a 22. Just five weeks of exercise on the Alter G got her off of the plateau and down to a size 16. She is 85 pounds lighter.
"The way I feel and the inches that are being lost is amazing," Stormo said.
In his late 50's, Henry Knoll, Jr. was having a similar problem.
"I was a biscuit under 300 pounds, about 298 pounds," Knoll said.
A rare joint condition and his weight caused his knees to be nearly bone on bone. It was painful. So last July he used an Internet tool called www.myfitnesspal.com and lost 55 pounds.
"So instead of eating a four inch slab of lasagna, I began to eat a two inch slab and I controlled my weight by cutting the calories down," he said.
Knoll also discovered Alter G treadmill.
"It felt good. It felt like I could do something again. I'm up to a half hour now being able to walk and the first time I was able to run in about 15 or 16 years was two weeks ago," said Knoll.
This $25,000 machine gives you instant control of how much body weight is pounding on each step you take. You're zipped into special pants, then your lower body is locked into air tight surroundings. You decide if you want to feel 100 or zero percent of your body weight, or any amount in between.
"It helps them be able to go for 30, 45 minutes where as otherwise they'd be walking for about one to two minutes and they'd be done because of the pain. This way they are absolutely 100 percent pain free," said physical therapist Robbie Porche of the OrthoPTic Rehab Clinic of Metairie.
Even though Stormo and Knoll are losing weight through calorie control and for Stormo, surgery, doctors and fitness experts say exercise can do things for your health and body that calorie counting can't.
"If you just diet, your metabolism slows. So as it slows, it's going to make you want to store body fat. But if you continue to exercise you will actually have to burn calories," explained Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, the head of the LSU Health Sciences Center Department of Family Medicine who is also an expert in nutrition, exercise and sports medicine.
"The key is to do as minimal muscle loss because if you lose the muscle, you slow the metabolic rate down," said Fitness Expert Mackie Shilstone of The Fitness Principle at East Jefferson General Hospital.
Exercise is not only for your heart but it reduces stress, and joints and ligament and muscles all benefit from getting the full range of motion. And down the road, exercise may keep you from surgery.
"I've had several people who've lost weight, lost 80 or 100 pounds after bariatric procedures, built up their stamina and endurance and low and behold their back pain is 60, 70 percent better. Their knee pain gets better," said Dr. Najeeb Thomas, a neurosurgeon at East Jefferson General Hospital and Crescent City Surgical Center in Metairie.
Exercising their weight off is helping Stormo and Knoll reach some emotional goals. For Stormo it's being able play on the floor with her grandchild and something more personal.
"I want to go to Jazz Fest. I want to go to Jazz Fest and to walk and to enjoy," said Stormo of the future.
For Knoll, now that he can walk without pain, it's the steps in the Superdome.
"I'm hoping to be able to go back to a Saints game next year," he said.
The Alter G treadmill is also used for rehab after injuries, surgery and even for athletes.
Most insurance will pay if it is part of rehab, or anyone can buy a monthly membership package to use the Alter G.
Monthly Rates OrthoPTic Rehab Clinic of Metairie http://www.metairiephysicaltherapy.com/ 504-885-9121
Hourly Rates Southern Orthopaedic Specialists in New Orleans www.sosneworleans.com 504-212-4115 Appointments by e-mail: SOSnap.firstname.lastname@example.org