Scientists have given the big tick to effort-free exercise, after finding that vibrating machines offer the same physical benefits as power walking.
US researchers have found that 20 minutes of “whole-body vibration” works as effectively as 45 minutes on a treadmill in restoring muscle and bone mass to obese mice.
The scientists say that while the results need to be replicated in humans, they suggest vibrating machines — used in some fitness centres and home gyms — can mimic the effects of regular exercise on the metabolism of people with lifestyle diseases.
“Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said lead researcher Meghan McGee-Lawrence of Augusta University in Georgia.
Whole-body vibration involves sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform. The theory is the vibrations force the muscles to contract and relax dozens of times a second.
Advocates tout it as a fitness tonic, a detox and balance treatment and an antidote to back pain and neurological disorders. NASA has researched it as a means of reducing muscle and bone atrophy in astronauts facing long missions in zero gravity.
However, while some research suggests it can increase strength — particularly in the leg muscles — comprehensive evidence of the benefits have been lacking. A Harvard University study found it did not reduce bone loss in older women, while sceptics warn the rapidly vibrating machines could trigger joint pain or brain damage.
The new study, published this morning in the journal Endocrinology, trialled the technique on mice genetically engineered to become morbidly obese. Twelve weeks of daily whole-body vibration achieved similar results as treadmill sessions in reducing weight and boosting muscle mass, sensitivity and bone formation.
Dr McGee-Lawrence said the results were encouraging, although researchers would need to “optimise” settings such as the frequency and amplitude of the vibrations “to find the best protocol for improving human health”.
“We wouldn’t expect that every type of vibration would be effective,” she said. “But animal studies like ours suggest it should be looked into further.” She said there was also some evidence that whole-body vibration benefited cardiovascular health.
Rachel Simpson, a trainer at Virgin Active fitness centre in Sydney’s Pitt St Mall, uses the machines for stretching. “It really shakes up the muscles and gets the fibres working together,” she said. “You can lengthen them out a lot more than you would in a normal stretch.”
Colleague Jeff Zheng said some clients simply stood or sat on the machines, but he encouraged them to add stretches or light weight work. “I wouldn’t recommend it if you have joint issues, because it is an unstable surface, but it’s great for toning up and getting back into fitness.”
Brisbane’s Trish Lange has used the machines at the gym, but prefers running. “You can get into your own head space, clear your mind a little bit.”
Ms Lange said vibrating machines had “some merit”, although she was sceptical of low-priced ones advertised on TV. “If I could stand for 20 minutes on a vibration machine and get toned and slim, I would do it, but I don’t know that it would work.’’
The mouse study is published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology. “Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said the study’s senior author, Meghan McGee-Lawrence of Augusta University.
While WBV did not fully address the defects in bone mass of the obese mice, it did increase global bone formation.
Ms McGee-Lawrence says this suggests longer-term WBV treatments could hold “promise” for preventing bone loss.
WBV consists of a person sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform. When the machine vibrates, it transmits energy to the body, and muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second. Researchers at Augusta University.examined the efficacy of WBV in two groups of five-week-old male mice.
One group consisted of normal mice, while the other group was genetically unresponsive to the hormone leptin, which promotes feelings of fullness after eating.
Mice from each group were assigned to sedentary, WBV or treadmill exercise for 12 weeks.
The genetically obese and diabetic mice showed similar metabolic benefits from both WBV and exercising on the treadmill.
Obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than obese mice in the sedentary group, although they remained heavier than normal mice. Exercise and WBV also enhanced muscle mass and sensitivity in the genetically obese mice.
The findings suggest that WBV may be a useful supplemental therapy to combat metabolic dysfunction in individuals with morbid obesity, said the authors. “These results are encouraging,” McGee-Lawrence said.
“However, because our study was conducted in mice, this idea needs to be rigorously tested in humans to see if the results would be applicable to people,” she added.
It sounds like a crazy way to improve your health—spend some time on a platform that vibrates at about the same frequency as the lowest string on a double bass. But recent research indicates that the procedure, known as whole-body vibration, may be helpful in illnesses from cerebral palsy to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Now, a new study of obese mice reveals that whole-body vibration provides similar metabolic benefits as walking on a treadmill, suggesting it may be useful for treating obesity and type II diabetes.
“I think it’s very promising,” says exercise physiologist Lee Brown of the California State University in Fullerton, who wasn’t connected to the study. Although the effects are small, he says, researchers should follow-up to determine whether they can duplicate them in humans.
Plenty of gyms feature whole-body vibration machines, and many athletes swear the activity improves their performance. The jiggling does seem to spur muscles to work harder, possibly triggering some of the same effects as exercise. But researchers still don’t know how the two compare, especially when it comes to people who are ill. So biomedical engineer Meghan McGee-Lawrence of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues decided to perform a head-to-head comparison of exercise and whole-body vibration.
The researchers tested mutant mice resistant to the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, resulting in obesity and diabetes. McGee-Lawrence and colleagues divided their animals into three groups. One group lived in cages on a platform that shook gently for 20 minutes each day, subjecting the animals to whole-body vibration. The second group scurried on a treadmill for 45 minutes per day, whereas animals in the control group could laze about to their hearts’ content.
After 12 weeks, the researchers found that exercise and whole-body vibration provided comparable health benefits. All three groups of mice gained weight during the study, but those in the exercising and shaken groups put on slightly less than the indolent rodents. They also had less fat and thicker leg muscles.
What’s more, mice in the two “active” groups showed signs of a healthier metabolism. People who are obese often have abnormally high levels of but are resistant to its effects. Whole-body vibration and exercise reduced levels by similar amounts in the mice and increased their responsiveness to the hormone, the scientists report online today in Endocrinology. And the team detected another positive effect. In patients who are obese or have type II diabetes, fat often accumulates in the liver, sometimes leading to organ malfunction and even death. But the mice that worked out on the treadmill or lived in the vibrating cages harbored about one-third as much fat in the liver as did the control rodents.
One area in which the shaking didn’t seem to help was skeletal health. Putting the skeleton under stress typically stimulates bones to reinforce themselves. But whole-body vibration didn’t strengthen the animals’ bones or increase their bone density. “Overall, the mice had poor skeletal health, and the interventions we tried did not reverse that,” says McGee-Lawrence. She notes, however, that the researchers did detect increased levels of osteocalcin, a hormone that indicates bone formation. That could mean that a longer study might uncover skeletal benefits that hadn’t appeared after only 12 weeks, she says.
But couch potatoes might not want to launch into a La-Z-Boy workout routine just yet. Whole-body vibration doesn’t provide the cardiovascular or respiratory benefits of physical activity, Brown notes, and “it’s not going to replace exercise.” McGee-Lawrence agrees, but adds that it could be an option for the many people who can’t work out because of time limitations or poor health. “The fact that whole-body vibration might be an alternative is pretty exciting,” McGee-Lawrence says. The next step, she says, is adapting the shaking regimen for human patients.
Researchers have found that a less strenuous form of exercise known as whole-body vibration may work just as well as regular exercise in helping to control diabetes. WBV, as it's called, could also benefit people who find it difficult to exercise.
Scientists say WBV transmits energy through the body when someone is standing, sitting or lying on a gently vibrating device, causing muscles to contract and relax many times each second.
The effect may be to strengthen and increase muscle mass, improving blood sugar control along with other problems seen in diabetes. At least, that's what studies in mice suggest.
Bearing in mind that exercise is good for everyone, including people with diabetes, researchers at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, studied five-week-old male rodents, comparing the effects of whole-body vibration to that of running on a treadmill.
A cage containing both normal and specially bred obese, diabetic mice was placed on a gently vibrating platform for 20 minutes per day for 12 weeks.
Another group of rodents — both diabetic and healthy mice — was trained to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day for the same period of time.
A third group of diabetic and healthy mice remained sedentary and were used for comparison.
Investigators saw similar health benefits in the diabetic mice that ran on the treadmill and those exposed to whole-body vibration.
Meghan McGee-Lawrence, an assistant professor in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia, said the results of the study showed that "vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes."
McGee-Lawrence said mice subjected to whole-body vibration and those that ran on the treadmill were both able to decrease fat in the liver, improve sensitivity and increase muscle fiber.
While there was improvement in the biomarkers of diabetic WBV mice and treadmill mice, they never became as healthy as the normal animals.
During the study, the mice were weighed weekly. Researchers found that the diabetic mice subjected to vibration and the treadmill gained less weight after the study was over than the sedentary rodents.
There was also evidence that whole-body vibration might improve the bone strength of diabetics.
The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.
McGee-Lawrence said researchers are now trying to determine the mechanisms that underlie improved diabetes control in both exercise and whole-body vibration mice.
There are vibrating chairs and beds available on the market, but McGee-Lawrence cautioned people against starting a routine of whole-body vibration and thinking they are controlling their diabetes.
"We know that some whole-body vibration ... seems to be good for the body, but too much can be a bad thing," she said. "And in terms of finding ways to apply that [to humans] ... I think we need some more studies to guide us on that so that when folks start doing this, we get the best beneficial effects we can without running the risk of having any potential side effects."
One potential harm of too much vibration, often seen heavy-machine operators, is tissue inflammation.
If researchers are able to repeat the results in humans, McGee-Lawrence said, whole-body vibration could be a useful add-on to the treatment of diabetes.
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KEY ADVANTAGES OF THE VBF PRO 2ND GEN:
Includes smooth rolling wheels and upright handle for transport.
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MAXIMISING MUSCLE CONTRACTIONS
Every single one of your muscle groups is put to work through reflex muscle contractions for the most efficient full body workout in the shortest amount of time.
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Simple stances that anyone can do is all you need to get in shape with a full body workout that tones up your muscles, shapes your body and burns off unwanted fats.
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Proven by medical research and studies to aid in bone density gain; you can stay healthy without having to step out of your home.
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Results showed that both frequencies produced significant improvements in skin blood flow within the first 4 minutes of vibration, peak values being obtained by the fifth minute.
Findings suggested that vibration exercises are beneficial for diabetes sufferers not only because they improve the circulation of blood but also because they help in managing body weight and reducing the risk of obesity.
Findings suggested this increased muscle activity resulted in an improved bone density in the lumbar spine between 0.5 % to 0.7 % and the hip between 0.8 % to 0.9 % in postmenopausal women.
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Did you know that the Russians used Vibration Training Exercises to counteract bone density and muscle tissue loss from zero-gravity exposure to keep their astronauts space-bound almost 4 times longer than the Americans?
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