What Does The Research Say About Whole Body Vibration?

What exactly is Whole Body Vibration?

Whole Body Vibration is when you stand, sit or lay on a platform that vibrates.  The idea is to introduce a new level of muscle and tissue stimulation that normal exercise cannot mimic.

Before Whole Body Vibration came into the market, back in the early 1990s, the predecessor, and technical term for it, was known as Rhythmic Neuromuscular Stimulation or RNS.  Interesting to note is that RNS was tested on turkeys as an experiment that was intended to benefit astronauts in space.  Indeed, as early as 1961, NASA was adding Whole Body Vibration techniques to the exercises that it required for its astronauts.  Astronauts, facing zero gravity, have to use their muscles and balance in a way that is highly demanding.    Today there are four types of whole body machines, they are:

  1. High Energy Lineal machines, which are popular in gyms.
  2. Low Speed Pivotal Units. These units make up the majority of Whole Body Vibration units on the market and tend to be of low quality.
  3. Premium Speed Pivotal units, which have a teeter totter style of movement.

What do studies on Whole Body Vibration say?

Vibration can actually be dangerous for humans when it is of a certain frequency.  However, low vibration has shown some benefits.  As crazy as Whole Body Vibration might sound, most sporting activities introduce some form of natural Whole Body Vibration to the body.  The ideal of mating exercise with Whole Body Vibrations is to enhance the end goal of that exercise regiment.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information or NCBI ,in a 24 week study of muscle strengthening, using Whole Body Vibration, there were measurable benefits.  In a study that used 48 untrained females, it showed that the females who used Whole Body Vibration had significantly stronger muscles than those who trained without Whole Body Vibration.  One of the benefits of Whole Body Vibration is that fat free mass was increased with the women who used Whole Body Vibration as opposed to the women who trained without Whole Body Vibration.  Strength gain was boosted significantly in the whole body group as well (NCBI Source.)

However, Whole Body Vibration did not reduce weight loss, lower total body fat or subcutaneous fat (subcutaneous fat is fat that is around the stomach area but underneath the skin.) Knee-extensor strength, on the other hand, was increased and fat free mass was reduced.  Fat free mass includes internal organs, muscle, connective tissue, water and bone.

The metabolic cost of exercise is increased with Whole Body Vibration as well.  How much energy you consume to do a physical exercise or task is known as metabolic cost.  This measurement is mostly expressed in calorie expenditure.  For example, in one study, twenty two physically active young males performed exercises on Whole Body Vibration machines.  The males performed three similar sets of six exercises.  The results showed that the males who used Whole Body Vibration, with their exercise routines, consumed more oxygen and burned more calories to do the same exercises as those males who did the same exercises, but without Whole Body Vibration (Source.)

Long term studies have also revealed that bone density is boosted by using Whole Body Vibration exercises.  This is very important to women who enter menopause.  Menopause can reduce a woman’s bone mass by up to a whopping 50%!  This dangerous reduction of bone mass can lead to various health consequences such as physical falls and frail bones that are easily broken.   The fluid flow in canaliculi and bone lacunae is also increased with Whole Body Vibrations as well.  Canalicular fluid plays a key role in how bones function.  This fluid allows the cells in bones to metabolize properly and it allows cell-to-cell communication as well.

In another NCBI study, it has been proven that balance has been improved with Whole Body Vibration.  According to NCBI, Whole Body Vibration improves the balance of older adults.  This is because Whole Body Vibration improves a very peculiar thing called “proprioception.”  Proprioception is a person’s ability to grasp or sense one’s own body parts and the strength in effort needed to move those body parts during movement.  In other words, Proprioception is one’s ability to sense or know just where their body is within the three dimensional space around them. For example, a doctor may test an elderly person’s proprioception by having them close their eyes and request that the elderly person close their index and thumb fingers together.  Whole Body Vibration has been proven to increase a subject’s proprioception over subjects who did not use Whole Body Vibration.

Finally, according to the Endocrine Society, Whole Body Vibration, in and of itself, maybe not only be as effective as regular exercise, but it may also help in the treatment of diabetes as well. “Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combatting some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said Meghan E. McGee Lawrence, Ph.D., of Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia.  In her study, mice that were obese and had diabetes gained less weight with Whole Body Vibration than mice that were not given Whole Body Vibration during the test.

Whole Body Vibration has a promising future for Health

Whole Body Vibration started off as a scientifically driven benefit to astronauts by NASA.  While vibrations to the body above a certain frequency can be damaging to tissue, Whole Body Vibration machines stay within a safe and beneficial vibration frequency.  The research data still has a long way to go to be thoroughly conclusive about the health benefits of Whole Body Vibration, but so far what research has been done has been promising.  Benefits such as optimized metabolic rates, increased bone density, increased knee extensor strength and increased proprioception are some of the benefits of Whole Body Vibration. Even though there is still much more research that is needed to be done on Whole Body Vibration, one can rest assure that what little research that has been done so far is overwhelmingly positive.

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