If you’re a fitness enthusiast and avid health blog reader, you’ve likely found some information on a new trend: whole body vibration. This form of passive exercise has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Many people claim wondrous health benefits from vibration-based exercise – but is this real or just a fad? In this guide to vibration machine benefits, we’ll analyze the scientific research behind whole-body vibration (WBV).
The History of Vibration Exercise
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss the origins of whole body vibration. This trend originates from Soviet War era USSR, where vibration therapy was a key part of the Russian space program. Soviet doctors wanted to understand how cosmonauts could physically prepare for their space travel. Some suggested that vibrating plates could not only help acclimate astronauts to space travel but also help them to maintain physical health while in space-flight. It was on this basis that Soviet doctors first tested vibration therapy.
Early Soviet research suggested that regular vibration therapy using a vibrating plate not only improved users’ bone density, but also strengthened their muscles. Why is this important? When humans spend long periods of time in low- or no-gravity environments, many of the effects of aging seem to accelerate. Bone density appears to decrease, muscular strength deteriorates, and the metabolism slows. Thus, vibration machines became a solution to prevent the weakening of the body and even strengthen it.
How Does Vibration Therapy Work?
In the most basic form of vibration therapy/exercise, a person stands on a vibrating plate with their knees bent slightly. When the user is balanced, he or she turns the machine on. The platform then begins vibrating. It appears that 30 vps (vibrations per second) is the most common – and most beneficial – vibration speed setting. The best vibration machines have additional features which can take your workouts to the next level.
Once the platform begins vibrating, the human body notices this. In fact, there’s a powerful physiological response triggered at 30 vibrations per second – the so-called “stress reflex”. In short, the vibrations cause the user’s muscles to contract as a “fight or flight” response – the body wants to ensure you keep your balance. The act of keeping your balance is physically taxing; when you keep your balance, this is actually a process that engages all the muscles of the core, the lower body, and even parts of the upper body. Vibration machine exercise triggers and strengthens the body’s stabilization musculature, providing what is essentially a complete, full-body workout.
What Are The Benefits of Whole Body Vibration Machines?
Here are some of the benefits of vibration machines (and the supporting research):
- Vibration Machines Support Fat Loss. A study published in Endocrinology showed a significant correlation between whole-body vibration and reduced fat levels in the liver and abdomen. In fact, the rate of fat loss was similar to levels from doing regular cardiovascular exercise.
- Increased Muscle Strength & Mass. In one study featured in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, women who used whole body vibration machines 3 times weekly saw a significant increase in lean muscle mass versus a control group. They also found that regular vibration exercise made users stronger (specifically in the knee-extensors). The observed increase in strength and muscle was comparable to standard fitness regimens centered around cardio and resistance training.
- Increased Bone Density. Multiple studies suggest that WBV training increases bone density. In one study using the Power Plate brand of vibration machines, postmenopausal women showed an increase in bone density at a rate similar to what’s attainable by taking osteoporosis drugs.
- Reduced Cellulite. In a revolutionary German study, researchers were interested in seeing if vibration machines reduce cellulite. They had a group of women complete routine whole body vibration training for six months and monitored their cellulite levels. The women in the study did 2-3 workouts per week of 8-13 minutes. The researchers found that the group doing vibration exercise benefited by reducing cellulite 25.7%. Another test group did both vibration therapy + cardiovascular exercise, and they saw a 32.3% reduction in cellulite.
- Improved Blood Flow and Metabolism. By engaging a wide array of muscles in the human body, vibration fitness supports improved blood flow, stimulates the metabolism, and increases circulation through the lymph nodes.
Whole Body Vibration Benefits For Injuries & The Elderly
Perhaps the most exciting thing about vibration machines are their applications for elder health and people recovering from injuries. As humans age, we lose bone mass, muscular strength, and our blood flow worsens. Even worse, we become less physically able to exercise.
Whole body vibration appears to be an effective way for elders and people who are injured to enjoy the benefits of exercise without having to do anything too strenuous. This form of exercise only requires that you stand on a platform and engage your stabilization muscles. Thanks to the fact that these platforms have handles, vibration therapy is something that even non-able-bodied people can do.
Research supports the notion that vibration machines have myriad health benefits. Through WBV, elders and injury-sufferers alike can enjoy the benefits of a great workout even if they are not physically capable of doing things like running or resistance exercise. As always, check in with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.