Since some time, the astronauts, who suffer from bone loss and fractures at a much younger age than the normal population, began to use vibration therapy to help strengthen their bone mass and muscles. But not only astronauts reported benefits with vibration therapy. It has been shown that it may also help prevent muscle soreness after exercise and decrease muscle tremors and rigidity in Parkinson’s disease patients. This prospect of passively standing on a vibration platform and doing basically nothing, while your body seemingly tones and loses weight on its own, is especially appealing for all of us overweighed exhausted individuals. How on Earth could that work!?
The theory is that during whole-body vibration therapy, as you stand, sit, or lay on a machine supported by a vibrating platform, the vibration signals are transferred into body tissues, tendons and muscles, increasing muscle contractions and ultimately improving muscle strength, coordination and balance, and in the long run, such contractions could increase muscle mass and energy expenditure, leading even to a better control of blood sugar levels.
This theory is so far confirmed in mice, at least. Mice specifically bred to become obese and diabetic, that were assigned to either sedentary, whole-body vibration or treadmill exercises conditions showed comparable metabolic benefits from both whole-body vibration and exercising on the treadmill. Obese mice gained less weight, lost more fat tissue, especially in the abdomen, known as “bad” fat, and experienced enhanced muscle mass and insulin sensitivity after exercise or whole-body vibration than those in a sedentary group.
However, results in humans are still modest. A small study in obese women on a 6-week endurance training program combined with additional whole-body vibration training demonstrated decreased waist circumference, despite the fact that body weight did not change during the training period.
Also, another larger study in 70 obese participants following whole body vibration or traditional exercise program, combined with caloric restriction or dieting only, reported that weight decreased significantly in all intervention groups, but only caloric restriction combined with traditional fitness or whole-body vibration managed to maintain a weight loss of 5% or more in the long term, whereas visceral adipose tissue changed most with whole-body vibration program.
But before all enthusiastic couch potatoes include whole-body vibration workout into a daily routine, it needs to be highlighted that it doesn’t provide the cardiovascular or respiratory benefits of physical activity and cannot replace exercise. However, it certainly could be considered as a meaningful add-on to different weight loss programs representing a valuable option for people who can’t work out because of time limitations, poor health or their age.