Vibration Training Benefits
I am sure that any gym goers have seen these vibrating platform machines on their trips to the fitness centers. I have often looked at them and wondered if they were of any benefit. I certainly would not mind putting one in front of the television and letting the machine do the work for me.
Whole body vibration training involves standing, sitting or lying down on a vibrating platform. As the platform vibrates, energy gets transmitted into the body and forces the muscles to contract then relax many times every second. The activity can make you feel like you are exerting yourself and yet it is doing the work on your behalf. Sounds good to me so far.
Advocates of vibration training claim that just 15 minutes of whole body vibration done three times each week can have many beneficial effects. The benefits include improved strength, weight loss, fat burning, improved flexibility, enhanced blood flow and reduced soreness following exercise. They also claim it can ease stress by decreasing cortisol levels.
With that in mind, I decided to look at some of the research into these devices to see whether they had any actual benefits and how vibration training stacked up against more regular exercise like jogging, swimming or just walking.
How Vibration Training Works
When you stand or sit on the vibrating platform, the forces on your body are increased and this is why your body can benefit. The machine effectively boosts the G force exerted on the body. Good quality vibration platforms are able to generate a force between 2 and 6 Gs meaning that even when the machine is set to its lowest setting, the force applied can double your weight.
When you sit or stand on the platform,every muscle in the body reacts in very fast contractions and relaxations. By working on the vast majority of your body’s muscle fiber, advocates claim you can get excellent benefits from even a short workout.
The up and down movements of the platform improve muscle tone while left to right or back to front movement improves coordination and balance. According to the theory, this can result in dramatic improvements in strength, balance, flexibility and tone.
The Benefits of Vibration Training
While comprehensive studies are lacking, there is some evidence that vibration training can help strengthen the muscles and possibly even weight loss as long as it is part of a diet plan. There is also evidence that it could help relieve back pain, improve balance and protect against bone loss in older people.
The following are some of the known benefits of vibration training:
1) Low Back Pain
There is some evidence that vibration training can help those who suffer from low back pain. This is a common issue with some estimates suggesting that as many as 80% of people will experience during their lives with over 20% suffering from chronic low-back pain.
Up to now, good evidence that whole body vibration can help is lacking and one review of the research conducted to date criticized the quality of the studies done so far. (1)
The authors of the review concluded that more research was needed before physiotherapists included whole body vibration exercises as part of a treatment plan.
Chinese researchers will soon be doing just that. The proposed study will use 120 volunteers with chronic lower back pain who will be assigned to a treatment group or control group. The study will be done over three months with the goal of determining the effects of whole body vibration on low back pain.
2) Weight Loss
Advocates claim that whole body vibration exercises can help a person lose weight and burn fat. There is little in the ways of scientific evidence to back this up but some recent animal studies have been positive.
In one recent study published earlier this year, researchers at Augusta University found that vibration training had a positive effect on the weight of obese mice and also on metabolism and diabetes. According to the researchers, vibration training could effectively mimic the effects of more strenuous exercise. (2)
This would make it suitable for people who can not exercise for physical reasons but need to lose weight. However, if you really want to make a significant impact, vibration training is unlikely to be as effective as more traditional exercise routines.
3) Vibration Training and Posture
According to research, one of the benefits of whole body vibration is its effect on posture stability. A recent study was conducted over four weeks using four groups of males. The aim of the study was to examines the effect of vibration training both in the short and the long-term. Researchers found that whole body vibration had a positive effect on posture stability. (3)
4) Strengthens Muscles and Tones the Body
Vibrations training causes very rapid contractions of the muscles which are much faster than you would see in a more traditional form of exercise. Because of this, doing strength exercises like squats or push ups on a vibration plate can help add greater strength and tone to the muscles.
5) Bone Strength
There is some evidence that whole body vibration training can help to strengthen mineral density and protect the bones. Making sure that your bones are strong can help prevent common diseases like osteoporosis later in life.
One recent study which was published in 2016 found that vibration training had a very positive effect on post-menopausal women by increasing bone density. The same study also found that vibration exercises helped boost leg strength in older women. (4)
6) Flexibility and Balance
According to proponents, vibration training also helps increase your flexibility and range of movements above what you could achieve with more static stretching. Performing exercises on a vibrating plate engages hip flexors and the core which helps to stabilize the whole body. This can improve your stability, balance and even your co-ordination.
7) Improved Circulation
Another potential benefit of vibration training is that it can improve the circulation of blood around the body and stimulate your lymph glands. When lymph fluid flows better, it may even help improve immune function. Improved blood circulation helps ensure each cell in the body gets the right amount of oxygen and more nutrients.
Based on the studies done to date, there do seem to be some benefits to vibration training but as with any other form of exercise, the results will depend on various other factors.
A lot of people believe that vibration training is a short cut to weight loss and fitness but long-term effective weight loss involves more work. Successful weight loss involves diet and exercise and simply standing on a vibrating platform for 15 minutes a few times a week is unlikely to have much of an impact on its own. Nor does vibration training do much for aerobic health since you are not increasing the heart rate.
Vibration training would appear to be more effective for those who struggle to do more traditional exercise through disability or injury. For the rest of us, it may have some physical benefits but is unlikely to transform your body strength or appearance on its own.
Have you ever tried vibration training? What were the results and would you recommend it for other people? We would love to hear from you.