The Many Health Benefits of Whole Body Vibrational Training

Story at-a-glance -

  • Regardless of your current level of fitness, Whole Body Vibrational Training can provide a host of impressive health benefits while reducing your workout time
  • Obese and diabetic mice gained similar muscle mass and insulin sensitivity improvements putting in either 45 minutes/day on a treadmill or standing on a vibrating platform for 20 minutes/day for four months
  • Whole body vibration can also add another dimension of benefit to warmups, cool-downs and conventional exercises such as squats and planks, and can help seniors improve bone strength and general health

By Dr. Mercola

Are you bored with your exercise routine? Have you reached a plateau? Are you in your senior years, struggling with physical limitations? Or are you too overweight to even get started?

Regardless of your current level of fitness, Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT) can probably help. It's a type of exercise that can provide a host of impressive health benefits without taking up any extra time. In fact, you may be able to cut your workout time in half using a WBVT device such as the Power Plate.

Recent animal research1,2,3 found obese and diabetic mice gained similar muscle mass and insulin sensitivity improvements putting in either 45 minutes a day on a treadmill or standing on a vibrating platform for 20 minutes each day for four months.

WBVT May Get the Exercise Ball Rolling for Morbidly Obese Individuals

The study was specifically designed to evaluate the benefits of WBVT on morbidly obese individuals who may have trouble exercising at all. According to lead author Meghan McGee-Lawrence, assistant professor of cellular biology and anatomy at Augusta University:4,5

"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 …

If you are able to exercise, we'd still recommend exercise as a first-choice option. [But for people who find it difficult to work out in a traditional way], our study suggests it may be possible to obtain some of the same beneficial effects of exercise in a … less strenuous way."

Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise added:

"Standing on a vibrating platform for 5, 10, 15 minutes can actually make cells stronger, maybe help them lose a little weight, and get them better prepared to eventually start exercising."

Add Another Dimension to Your Regular Exercise Routine

The Power Plate can also be used to add another dimension of benefit to warmups, cool-downs and conventional exercises such as squats and planks.

Jill Rodriguez, one of our personal trainers, demonstrates how to use the Power Plate with a variety of exercises in the videos below, including squats, deadlifts, pushups, planks and cardio intervals, finishing with suggestions for how to turn your post-workout stretching session into a massage.

If you're doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the vibration will have the effect of ramping up your intensity even further.

When used together with my Peak Fitness program, which includes HIIT — a series of powerful high-intensity burst-type exercises — you can complete your entire workout in a fraction of the time you'd have to spend on traditional workouts.

While vibrating platforms are safe for most individuals, including the elderly, the American Council on Exercise warns WBVT is contraindicated for those with electronic implants such as pacemakers, pregnant women, and those with a history of seizures, thrombosis and/or tumors.

Also understand that WBVT is not a replacement for exercise. It may help you get started if you're so overweight you cannot walk or exercise normally, but it's not a magic bullet, as you will not reap the cardiovascular benefits of exercise by simply sitting or standing on the platform.

How Does WBVT Work?

While there are many different vibrating platforms on the market, my personal favorite, and the one I've been personally using for several years now, is the Power Plate. It's a well-designed, high-quality device that vibrates in all three dimensions: vertical, horizontal and sagittal (front to back).

Some whole-body vibration (WBV) machines provide only side-to-side motion, giving you a "wobble board" effect. Avoid such machines, and look for two motor systems that provide a genuine 3-D workout.

When standing on this vibrating platform, you increase the forces on your body, which is what puts the "work" into your workout. By increasing gravity, it effectively increases the G forces exerted on your body.

A high-quality vibration platform such as the Power Plate can generate forces from 2 to 6 Gs, depending on the frequency and amplitude settings used. This means that, even at the lowest setting, you nearly double your body weight in terms of the forces applied.

When you stand on the vibrating platform, each muscle in your body reacts in a continuous flow of micro adjustments, contracting reflexively. By engaging up to 98 percent of your muscle fibers, including the fast and super-fast muscle fibers, you get greater rewards and shorter workouts.

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.

Health Benefits of WBVT

The benefits of WBVT are many, and the reason for this is because WBV stimulation affects not only your musculature but also your internal organs and glands, including your brain.

Your muscle spindles fire secondary to the mechanical stimulation produced by the vibrating plate, and this rapid firing of the muscle spindles cause a neuromuscular response that ripples through your entire body, causing a wide array of physiological changes. Subsequently, research has shown WBV can help:6,7

Increase muscle strength, especially explosive strength

Pain reduction (such as with fibromyalgia)

Increase hormone secretion: IGF-1, testosterone, and human growth hormone (HGH)

Counteract age-related muscle wasting  

Increase fat loss; WBVT in conjunction with resistance training improved fat loss in menopausal women.8

Other research9 found WBVT was 54 percent more effective than traditional aerobics and strength training in producing visceral fat loss.

Those using WBVT were also less likely to gain the weight back

Reduce cellulite; 8 to 13 minutes of WBVT, two to three times per week for six months was shown to reduce cellulite by 26 percent. When combined with 24 to 48 minutes of cardio, cellulite was reduced by more than 32 percent10

Increase bone mass and mineral density, thereby decreasing risk of osteoporosis

Improve in blood circulation, which can also stimulate tissue healing. Three minutes on a vibrating platform doubles mean circulation for at least 10 minutes11

Increase flexibility and mobility

Increase secretion of serotonin and norepinephrine

Improve proprioception and balance

Increase lymphatic drainage

Decrease cortisol levels  

Speed up recovery from injury

Improve fitness in the elderly

Improve neurological conditions

The Power Plate — A Valuable Exercise Tool for the Elderly  

Seniors are another group of people who, due to physical limitations, may struggle to stay fit. Using a vibrating platform, such as the Power Plate, can be quite helpful, allowing you to become stronger, faster and more agile without engaging in more strenuous exercise routines.12

By stimulating your fast- and super-fast muscle fibers, WBVT helps counteract the loss of muscle mass, or muscle wasting, that occurs with age. It can also help counteract age-related loss of bone mass by triggering the release of osteoblasts to build new bone.

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 thinner, more brittle bones. Weight-bearing exercises can go a long way to prevent this, and can help reverse the damage already done. Adding WBVT may further boost your results.

In one study,13 30 minutes of WBVT per day for 12 weeks improved bone density in mice. Another six-month-long study found WBVT helped increase hip area bone density in postmenopausal women, while conventional training only slowed the rate of deterioration.14 The women, aged 58 to 70 years old, did either static and dynamic exercises for the upper leg and hip area using WBV, up to 30 minutes a day, three times a week, or 60 minutes of conventional weight training, three times per week.

According to the researchers, WBVT can be a helpful adjunct therapy to reverse bone loss and osteoporosis, increasing leg strength by as much as 16 percent, and bone density in the hip by 1.5 percent. NASA has also tested and confirmed that standing on a vibrating platform for 10 to 20 minutes a day helps prevent the bone loss that occurs during space travel.15

Other studies have demonstrated the elderly can make significant gains in other health and fitness areas using WBVT, including improved physical function and quality of walking, equilibrium, pain reduction, vitality and general health.16,17

In a Spanish study,18 seniors over the age of 65 performed 10 squats, held for 45 seconds on the vibrating platform, three times per week for 11 weeks. Compared to those who did the identical exercise on a stationary surface, the WBV group improved their fitness in a number of ways. After 11 weeks, they were able to perform two additional reps of upper and lower body strength exercises, had half an inch greater lower body flexibility, and improved their walking speed.

Enhancing Your Workout Routine With Power Plate

If you're already exercising regularly, a Power Plate may be just the thing you need to kick your fitness regimen up a notch. It's so versatile, you can use it to boost the intensity of just about any exercise you can think of. In the video above, Rodrigues demonstrates some of your options, including the following:

Beginner level squat circuit, using both static and dynamic movements

Intermediate level squat circuit with dumbbells, using static and dynamic movements

Advanced squat circuit with overhead dumbbell press

Beginner level single-hand deadlift circuit, with or without overhead press

Intermediate level single-hand deadlift circuit with dumbbell row

Advanced single-hand deadlift circuit with dumbbell row

Beginner, intermediate and advanced level pushup

Beginner, intermediate and advanced plank circuit

Beginner, intermediate and advanced 30-second cardio interval challenge

Post-Workout Relaxation With Power Plate

The Power Plate is also an excellent tool for post-workout relaxation, stretching and massage. In the video above, Rodrigues demonstrates several possibilities, including:

  • Standing hamstring stretch
  • Lat stretch
  • Thigh massage
  • Glute massage
  • Upper arm and back massage

Acceleration Training Is Ideal for Virtually Everyone

WBVT proves exercise doesn't have to be time consuming to pay off. 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 it can benefit virtually everyone, regardless of age or fitness status, but may be particularly useful for the elderly and those who are too overweight to perform a regular high-intensity workout routine.

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, WBVT is so gentle that even frail and disabled persons can tolerate it.

WBVT 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 your HGH naturally, which helps explain several of its health and fitness benefits.