By Patrick Netter, the Gear Guru®

We all know that 76 million Baby Boomers represent a generation that did not go quietly into middle age.  And don’t tell them they’re now smack in the middle of their golden years!

While tens of millions have stayed more active and enjoyed improved quality of life in later years than previous generations, eventually the risk of falling becomes a fact of life. But, does it have to?

Loss of function, strength, flexibility, and lateral stability are going to happen at some point. Obviously, the longer one can maintain vigorous exercise and activity (assuming it’s “safe”) the longer one can put off functional decline.

That said, everyone will eventually experience some degree of functional decline. Even those who exercise regularly in later life will eventually experience diminished lateral stability, which includes reduced balance.  They must train in a specific way to enhance it.  Traditional cardio fitness products typically only train in the sagittal “front-to-back” plane.  They do little to nothing for improving lateral stability. That’s a potentially major problem.

The more deconditioned people become, the more they rely on non-weight bearing recumbent cardio products. These do virtually nothing for improving balance or lateral stability.  Even someone who commits to consistent recumbent-based training will continue losing lateral stability. One of the main reasons for this is that the lower body muscle group, responsible for creating lateral stability, are the glutes.

There is now a piece of cardio equipment that addresses these concerns and the science seems to back up claims made by the manufacturer.

Helix Company, who created the world’s first cardio machine-based lateral trainers, partnered with SciFit, a leading supplier of medical and PT-based fitness products. They’ve developed a machine they call a Recumbent Lateral Trainer, “RLT.”

Ok, here are the uber nerd aspects to all this:  It’s taken from the technical explanation provided by researcher Andy Baxter, MES PRCS, in his summation of the Recumbent Lateral Trainer:

“Research indicates that these RLT’s offer several and specific benefits. First, the RLT is a closed chain (meaning the feet are grounded), compound (displacing the load across two joint/muscle systems) movement that is also bi-directional for enhanced neuro-muscular adaptation (neurogenesis). Because of these properties, this movement is designed to safely and effectively integrate the movement of the joint arthrokinematics (joint surface and connecting tissue relationships) with the larger gross motor movement osteokinematics (large muscles of the leg and butt).”

In addition to creating glute activation throughout the entire range of motion, the RLT has additional benefits. It creates no hip adduction and actually helps strengthen the hip joint because it creates activation of the muscles and connective tissues surrounding the hip joint. Conversely, regarding abduction, the RLT allows the hip joint to open externally improving ROM, with all four muscle quadrants of the quads firing AND the medial glute fires throughout the entire rotation on the RLT.

In only slightly more layperson-friendly terms, I am not aware of other traditional recumbent exercise modalities that create the multi-planar stimulus delivered by the Helix RLT. The RLT focuses on engaging the Glute Medius, Glute Maximus, Vatsus Lateralis, and all quadrants of the Quadriceps. This glute engagement helps create power and speed in elite athletes.   For this and other populations, it also contributes to stabilizing the knees and improves lateral stability.

For the average gym member, I see it producing training of the lower body and greater metabolic cost than other recumbent modalities.  The idea of course, is the more muscle groups engaged and activated will lead to greater metabolic value.