Hide this

Story at-a-glance +

  • Research suggests Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training can stimulate muscle growth and improve overall fitness in the elderly. Previous studies have also demonstrated significant gains in most measures of muscle performance in sedentary and elderly individuals when using WBV
  • In a previous study, elderly patients performing 4 one-minute long WBV exercise sessions three times per week for six weeks experienced 143 percent improvement in physical function; 77 percent improvement in equilibrium; 57 percent improvement in walking; and 41 percent reduction in pain
  • WBV training, as well as weight-bearing exercise, can go a long way to prevent brittle bones and osteoporosis, and can help reverse the damage already done. Strength training and WBV exercises can be particularly potent in combination
  • WBV training using the Power Plate is the perfect complement to high intensity interval training to build strength, shed excess fat, and improve athletic performance, regardless of age. Both of these techniques also help you produce human growth hormone (HGH) naturally, which plays an important role in overall health and longevity
 

How Whole Body Vibration Exercises Can Help Improve Fitness in the Elderly

February 08, 2013 | 259,859 views
Share This Article Share

By Dr. Mercola

Exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can be a part of your life no matter what your age. In fact, staying active becomes increasingly important as you get older.

Even frail seniors of advanced age can improve muscle strength and agility with exercise, which is important for preventing falls and injuries.

For seniors who have a hard time performing aerobic exercise, using a Whole Body Vibration (WBV) platform (such as The Power Plate) can help them improve performance, allowing them to become stronger, faster and more agile, according to recent research1.

As explained by Dr. Keith DeOrio, M.D2., WBV stimulation affects your entire body musculature, as well as your internal organs and glands.

Your muscle spindles fire secondary to the mechanical stimulation produced by the vibrating plate, and this rapid firing of the muscle spindle causes a neuromuscular response that leads to physiological changes in your brain as well as your entire body.

How Whole Body Vibration Can Improve Fitness in Those Over 65

The featured study was funded by the Spanish government, and while small in scale, it suggests Whole Body Vibration (WBV) training can stimulate muscle growth and improve overall fitness in the elderly. As reported by Reuters:

“Twenty-four men and women over 65 performed 10 squats held for 45 seconds on the vibrating platform, with a minute rest in between, three times per week for 11 weeks. The study also included 25 people who did not take part in the vibration exercises.

... Those who did the exercises were, on average, able to do two more reps of upper and lower body strength exercises, had almost half an inch more lower body flexibility, and walked 33 yards one second faster than before the vibration training...”

Other studies have also demonstrated significant gains in most measures of muscle performance in sedentary and elderly individuals when using WBV. It has also been shown to provide a number of additional health benefits in the elderly. For example, one study, performed by the University of Liege in Belgium3, investigated the effects of controlled whole body vibrations exercises on overall health in elderly patients and found that after six weeks (performing 4 one-minute sessions, 3 times a week), the participants experienced:

143 percent improvement in physical function 57 percent improvement in the quality of walking
77 percent improvement in equilibrium 41 percent reduction in pain
60 percent improvement in vitality 23 percent improvement in general health

Reduce Bone Loss with Whole Body Vibration

Loss of bone mass is one of the common signs of aging, because as you age your existing bone is absorbed by your body while new bone is created to replace it. In the case of osteoporosis, the formation of new bone falls behind the rate of bone absorption, leading to weakened, thinner and more brittle bones.

A thinning hipbone is a major concern if you are elderly, because any fall increases the risk of a broken hip, which always carries a great risk of complications and usually requires prolonged specialized care for recovery. It's estimated that 25 percent of elderly people suffering a hip fracture die as a direct result4.

Weight-bearing exercise, like resistance or strength training, can go a long way to prevent brittle bone formation, and can help reverse the damage already done. WBV training can also be helpful here, especially in the elderly.

In a study5 by Medical College of Georgia researchers, using vibration therapy 30 minutes daily for 12 weeks improved bone density in mice, a finding that adds support for their use in humans, especially the elderly. It's thought that the vibrations prompt movement of the cell nucleus, which may trigger the release of osteoblasts to build bone. Previous studies have also found that WBV training increases bone density in the hip and inhibits bone loss in the spine and hip areas.

Vitamin D and K2 Are Also Critical Factors for Bone Health Throughout Life

For optimal bone health you also need to optimize your vitamin D levels, and make sure you’re getting enough vitamin K2. Both of these nutrients are essential for healthy bone formation and maintenance, and they work in tandem. This is why, if you take high doses of vitamin D3, you also need to take extra vitamin K2.

The biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also helps remove calcium from areas where it shouldn’t be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues. Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries.

So remember, if you take supplemental vitamin D, you're creating an increased demand for K2. Together, these two nutrients help strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.

While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, author of Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life, suggests that for every 1,000 IU's of vitamin D you take, you may benefit from about 100 micrograms of K2, and perhaps as much as 150-200 micrograms (mcg). So, if you take 8,000 IU's of vitamin D3 per day, that means you'd need in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,000 micrograms (0.8 to 1 milligram/mg) of vitamin K2.

Insulin Resistance and Age-Related Muscle Loss

In related news, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) Nutrition Working Group has released a scientific review6 that examines the role of nutrition in the development of sarcopenia (age-related loss of muscle mass).

Sarcopenia affects about 10 percent of those over 60, with higher rates as age advances. It may seem like common sense that if you don't use your muscles, they'll eventually atrophy away, yet so many people fail to apply this information. The older you get, the faster your muscles atrophy if you're not regularly engaging in appropriate exercise. However, dietary factors are also at play. According to the authors:

“A loss of fast twitch fibers, glycation of proteins, and insulin resistance may play an important role in the loss of muscle strength and development of sarcopenia.”

As I keep repeating, insulin resistance caused by excessive sugar consumption is at the root of virtually every disease and health ailment you can think of, and that includes age-related muscle loss. In fact, if your insulin receptors are insensitive, the mTOR mechanism, which is part of the insulin pathway and builds protein in your muscles, remains inactivated, making muscle wasting more or less inevitable. So, needless to say, it's very important to keep your insulin levels low to avoid becoming insulin resistant — not just for your overall health, but also to maintain healthy muscle.

Nutritional Factors That Help Preserve Muscle Mass, Strength and Performance in Seniors

The IOF review identified a number of important dietary factors shown to have a beneficial impact on the maintenance of muscle mass with advancing age, as well as the treatment of sarcopenia. These include:

  • Protein: The authors suggest an intake of 1.0-1.2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day to maintain optimal muscle and bone health in seniors who do not have severely impaired renal function.
  • This is more than the recommendations issued by Dr. Ron Rosedale, who believes one gram of protein per kilo of lean body weight is sufficient for muscle maintenance and repair without detrimentally triggering the mTor pathway, which he believes ma play a role in the development of cancer.

    So if you are really lean, the recommendation is close but if you are obese you could be consuming far too much protein based on the IOF recommendation. However if your goal is to increase muscle mass, then the extra protein would make sense.

    Whey protein is an excellent choice of protein for a number of reasons, but in part because it increases GLP-1, a satiety peptide that promotes healthy insulin secretion, and helps your insulin work more effectively. Just use the dose of protein you feel is appropriate for your needs. 20 grams if you want to follow lower protein Dr. Rosedale approach and double that if you want to increase muscle growth.

  • Vitamin D: The authors recommend optimizing vitamin D levels through exposure to sunlight and/or supplementation if required.
  • Avoiding dietary acid loads: Acid-producing foods such as meats and grains can have a detrimental impact on musculoscletal health when consumed in excess, and especially in combination with insufficient intake of vegetables and fruits, which have an alkalinizing effect. The authors recommend increasing consumption of vegetables to help prevent sarcopenia
  • Vitamin B12 and/or folic acid

According to Dr. Ambrish Mithal, co-author and Chair and Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes division at Medanta, New Delhi7:

"Strategies to reduce the numbers of falls and fractures within our ageing populations must include measures to prevent sarcopenia. At present, the available evidence suggests that combining resistance training with optimal nutritional status has a synergistic effect in preventing and treating sarcopenia.”

Other Beneficial Supplements for Optimal Muscle Performance

Two additional supplements that can help optimize muscle performance, regardless of your age, are:

  1. Carnosine in the form of beta-alanine: Carnosine is a pluripotent dipeptide composed of two amino acids (beta-alanine and histadine), found most notably in your muscles, where it helps buffer lactic acids and serves as a potent antioxidant that can help quell muscle inflammation. Most studies find that if you want to increase athletic performance with carnosine, your best bet is to use beta-alanine instead, since beta-alanine appears to be the rate limiting amino acid in the formation of carnosine.
  2. While you can easily purchase these as supplements, I do NOT recommend doing that. It is far better to get them from whole foods. The foods with the highest amount of useful dietary dipeptides like carnosine would be animal proteins, like eggs, whey protein, poultry and beef.

  3. Astaxanthin: A phenomenally potent antioxidant that has been shown to help improve muscle endurance, workout performance and recovery. It also reduces inflammation from all causes, including workout injuries, and even enhances your ability to metabolize fat.

How Whole Body Vibration Training Prevents Muscle-Wasting

Jumping back to where we started, by stimulating your fast- and super-fast muscle fibers, Whole Body Vibration training using a Power Plate appears to be very helpful for preventing and/or reversing age-related muscle wasting. It will also kick-start your pituitary gland into making more human growth hormone (HGH), which plays an important part in promoting overall health and longevity.

WBV is a truly revolutionary approach to fitness because it addresses your neuromuscular system as a whole, rather than one limb or muscle group at a time. Not to mention it's time efficient, allowing you to trim off several precious hours per week from your workout time. When used together with my Peak Fitness program, which includes high intensity interval training; a series of powerful high-intensity burst-type exercises, you can complete your entire workout a fraction of the time you'd have to spend on traditional workouts.

WBV training using the Power Plate is really the perfect complement to high intensity interval training to build strength, shed excess fat, and improve athletic performance. Both of these techniques also help you produce growth hormone (HGH) naturally. To learn more, please see this previous article.

It’s Never Too Late to Start Exercising

As you can see, age-related muscle wasting and bone loss doesn't have to happen to you... Following the advice detailed above can go a long way toward maintaining healthy bones and muscle mass as you age.

The earlier you start, the better, but remember, you are never too old to start exercising. Research shows that, no matter your age, you stand to gain significant improvements in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity through exercise. My mom didn't start working out until she was 74 and now, at the age of 78, she has gained significant improvements in strength, range of motion, balance, bone density and mental clarity.

And, if you’re presently incapable of engaging in aerobic exercise, using Whole Body Vibration training may be just the thing to help you get more active... If you're still on the fence about starting an exercise program, there's no time like the present. I guarantee it will make a major difference in your energy level, self-esteem and probably your entire outlook on life. It is really THAT powerful, whether you're 18 years old or 80!