By Dr. Mercola
Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT), also known as Acceleration Training, is ideally done using a platform that vibrates in three planes: vertical, horizontal and sagittal (front to back).
There is equipment out there that only moves in two planes but the three plane movement devices seem superior.
These micro-accelerations force your muscles to accommodate, resulting in dramatic improvement in strength, power, flexibility, balance, tone and leanness. But that's not all.
Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT) has also been shown to be a safe, natural way to ward off osteoporosis, and can also help the elderly maintain postural control and balance.
Bone fractures resulting from falls are commonplace among the elderly, which can have a devastating effect on their health.
Some, such as pelvic fractures, can be lethal.
It's also useful for rehabilitating injuries, and research has even determined that women with fibromyalgia can achieve a reduction in pain and fatigue using WBVT. Fortunately, WBVT is gentle enough for even for the disabled, and can be a very helpful addition to anyone's exercise routine—regardless of your age and fitness status.
Combating Osteoporosis without Drugs or Supplements
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by porous and fragile bones. It affects 44 million Americans, striking 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men. Those with osteoporosis are at increased risk of height loss, fractures of the hips, wrists and vertebrae, and chronic pain.
The conventional approach to address this problem is to use drugs such as Fosamax, Actonel or Boniva. However, while these drugs can increase your bone density, they do NOT make your bone stronger. Quite the contrary; having thicker bones with less strength actually increases your risk of bone fractures. Furthermore, these toxic drugs have been linked to a number of serious side effects, including:
Vibrational Training Beats Weight Training for Building Stronger, Denser Bones
Peak bone mass is achieved in adulthood and then begins to slowly decline. Exercise is very important for maintaining healthy bone mass. Weight-bearing exercise has been known as one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis, but research shows vibrational training is even MORE effective.
In one six month long study, Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT) was found to produce a significant increase in hip area bone density in postmenopausal women, while conventional training was only able to slow the rate of deterioration.1 A total of 90 women, aged 58 to 70 years old, were divided into three groups:
- The first group did up to 30 minutes of WBVT three times a week. Static and dynamic exercises for the upper leg and hip area included squats and lunges.
- The second group did 60 minutes of conventional weight training three times per week.
- The control group did not exercise at all.
According to the study:
"The whole body vibration group got positive results: strength increased as much as 16 percent in upper leg muscles, while bone density at the hip increased by 1.5 percent. In addition, the whole body vibration group showed an improvement in postural control and balance, increased muscle strength and lean mass while losing body fat and fat mass.
The conventionally trained subjects were able to slow the rate of bone loss, which is consistent with previous published studies on weight training and bone loss. The control group subjects continued to lose bone mineral density at the average rate."
The researchers concluded that Acceleration Training might be a solution for reversing bone loss and eliminating osteoporosis. Improving balance and posture, while increasing bone strength, can also reduce falls and fractures among the elderly. NASA has also tested vibration platforms to help prevent the bone loss that occurs during space travel.2According to a 2001 article in NASA Science:
"...NASA-funded scientists suggest that astronauts might prevent bone loss by standing on a lightly vibrating plate for 10 to 20 minutes each day. Held down with the aid of elastic straps, the astronauts could keep working on other tasks while they vibrate. The same therapy, they say, might eventually be used to treat some of the millions of people who suffer from bone loss, called osteoporosis here on Earth.
'The vibrations are very slight,' notes Stefan Judex, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who worked on the research. The plate vibrates at 90 Hz (1 Hz = 1 cycle per second), with each brief oscillation imparting an acceleration equivalent to one-third of Earth's gravity. 'If you touch the plate with your finger, you can feel a very slight vibration,' he added. 'If you watch the plate, you cannot see any vibration at all.'
Although the vibrations are subtle they have had a profound effect on bone loss in laboratory animals such as turkeys, sheep, and rats.
In one study (published in the October 2001 issue of The FASEB Journal), only 10 minutes per day of vibration therapy promoted near-normal rates of bone formation in rats that were prevented from bearing weight on their hind limbs during the rest of the day. Another group of rats that had their hind legs suspended all day exhibited severely depressed bone formation rates – down by 92 percent – while rats that spent 10 minutes per day bearing weight, but without the vibration treatment, still had reduced bone formation – 61 percent less. These results show that the vibration treatment maintained normal bone formation rates, while brief weight bearing did not."
Your Secret Weapon for Rehab
A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine investigated the effect of four weeks' worth of vibrational training compared to conventional physiotherapy on the rehabilitation after Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction.3 Twenty male athletes who had recently undergone ACL reconstruction performed standard tests used to measure postural control and balance, and were then randomly assigned to receive 12 sessions of WBVT, or 12 sessions of conventional training.
After four weeks, the vibrational training group had achieved significantly greater improvements than those in the conventional training group. The authors concluded that WBVT may be "a very useful tool to expedite rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction."
Reducing Pain and Regaining Flexibility Made Easy
Another 2008 study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of a six-week traditional exercise program with supplementary whole body vibration training in improving health status, physical functioning, and main symptoms of fibromyalgia in women diagnosed with fibromyalgia.4 Thirty-six patients were randomly divided into three groups:
- Exercise plus vibrational training, twice a week
- Exercise only, twice a week
- No exercise (control group)
The conventional exercise therapy included aerobic activities, stretching, and relaxation techniques. The two exercise groups underwent the identical exercise protocol, but the first group also received vibrational training after each exercise session.
The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire was administered at the beginning of the study, and at the end of the six-week program. At the end of six weeks, participants in the vibrational training group reported significantly reduced pain and fatigue scores. Meanwhile, neither the exercise-only nor the control group reported any significant reduction in pain or fatigue. The authors concluded:
"Results suggest that a 6-week traditional exercise program with supplementary WBV safely reduces pain and fatigue, whereas exercise alone fails to induce improvements."
Acceleration Training is Ideal for Virtually Everyone
Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT), along with high intensity interval training, proves that exercise does not have to be difficult and time consuming to provide great benefits. The near-total muscle fiber recruitment of WBVT translates into a great high-intensity workout that can be completed in as little as 10 minutes, two to three times a week.
I truly believe vibrational training technology represents a revolution in fitness science that can benefit virtually everyone, regardless of age or fitness status.
Obviously, if you have health challenges such as heart disease or high blood pressure, you will want to consult with your health care provider before starting a new fitness program, but overall, vibrational training is so gentle that even the most frail can tolerate it, making it ideal even for the elderly, the disabled, and those recuperating from an injury. In fact, as the research discussed above shows, these folks may stand to gain the most from this type of training, as it actually speeds healing and recovery.
The History of Vibrational Training
Whole Body Vibrational Training is based on Rhythmic Neuromuscular Stimulation (RNS) dating back to the 1960s when Professor W. Biermann, from the former East German Republic, described 'cyclical vibrations' capable of improving the condition of your joints relatively quickly.
As the theories of acceleration training exercise developed, Russian ballet dancers with minor muscle injuries such as Achilles tendonitis discovered that vibration aided the healing process. They also found that their muscular strength and jump height increased with only a quarter of the effort or time required by traditional training methods. Since then many athletes have discovered the benefits of acceleration training exercise.
The Mechanics of Acceleration Training
The more precise scientific term for WBVT is Acceleration Training, as it works on the principle of Newton's second law of thermodynamics, which you might recall from high school physics class:5
F = M x A
The force (F) on an object is a function of its mass (M) and its acceleration (F).
As it relates to your workout, you can think of force as the amount of work done. In order to benefit from your workout, you must increase the forces on your body by increasing one of the two variables, mass or acceleration:
- When you lift weights, you're increasing mass (the mass of your body plus any weights you use).
- Acceleration Training increases acceleration. The vibrations are actually very rapid small movements of the platform – mainly up and down. The changes of directions of the platform result in strong acceleration and decelerating forces, 25 to 50 times per second. The mass is simply your body, and vibration is the acceleration.
By increasing either (or both) of these variables, you increase the amount of force on your body, which is what puts the "work" into your workout. A high quality Acceleration Training machine can generate forces from two to six Gs depending on the frequency and amplitude settings used. So, even at the lowest setting, you are almost doubling your body weight in terms of applied forces.
As mentioned at the beginning, high quality Acceleration Training machines vibrate in three planes: vertical, horizontal and front to back.
When you stand on the vibrating platform, each muscle in your body reacts in a continuous flow of micro adjustments, contracting reflexively. The up-and-down movement improves your muscle tone. The left-to-right, and front-to-back movements improve your balance and coordination. The net result is a dramatic improvement in strength and power, flexibility, balance, tone and leanness.
Consider this: If you apply 30 Hertz (30 cycles per second) for 30 seconds, you are triggering/stimulating your neuromuscular system a total of 900 times in just half a minute. This means you can train to athlete status with about 12-25 minutes of Acceleration Training, three days a week. No wonder the results are so impressive!
Buyer Beware: Not All Acceleration Equipment are Created Equal...
There are many cheap machines out there so please understand that not all machines will provide identical benefits. In fact, cheap machines using faulty construction could cause harm. In my opinion, here's what you want to look for when shopping for Acceleration (or Whole Body Vibration) Training equipment:
- Solid steel construction. Avoid plastic platforms as they can and do break. Watch for sturdiness as you watch their demo video.
- Optional vibration settings and the convenience of automatic programs. You may want to challenge your body and increase the vibration setting.
- Adequate weight limit. If it can't handle your weight, it can break or strain to run at a lower intensity level.
- Who is selling the equipment? Know the company and their reputation.
- How loud is it? Many machines are excessively noisy which can contribute to psychological stress.
- Does the company provide a detailed guide and user manual? A video demonstration can be very helpful to learn recommended exercise positions.
- A good warranty and customer service in case you have questions. How long has the company been around? Will they be around long enough to honor their warranty?
- Beware of fake ratings. For example, it appears that the "Koehler Rating" may be fabricated. Don't fall for this type of marketing gimmick.
Be sure to take your time and check the fine print when shopping for Acceleration Training equipment. In my opinion, a reliable, well-built machine is truly a great investment that you'll appreciate for many years to come. Try to demo the machine you're interested. Notice how you feel when you step off. If you don't feel good afterwards, that's a red flag that the machine's vibrations may not be in tune with your body's natural frequencies.
Some foreign-made vibrating equipment is particularly poor with faulty electronics, buttons, cheap bearings and shoddy welds that commonly break. Beware of skinny support posts, unstable units, too small-sized plates, weak motors and units with insufficient power to support the vibration capacity.
With some Whole Body Vibration machines, you may experience a side-to-side type of motion – a "wobble board" effect. Avoid such machines, and look for two motor systems that provide a genuine 3-D workout.