Whole Body Vibration Training: What's This Workout?

Even before those retro "jiggling" machines were strapped around women's waists to wiggle away the pounds, people have experimented with ways to reap the benefits of exercise without too much effort. The search may finally be over. Whole body vibration training may be just what passive exercisers have been waiting for.

Whole body vibration training takes place on machines that look a lot like treadmills, but equipped with platforms instead of belts. Some platforms are large enough to lie on and are used for physical therapy, but most have platforms that are just large enough for standing or sitting. People step on the platform, hold on to the stability bars and either stand still or perform a few gentle exercises (like squats or toe-lifts) while the platform vibrates.

As the vibration machine wiggles and jiggles, it transmits energy that forces muscles to contract and relax dozens of times per second. It also requires that the user maintain his balance, which also causes muscles to contract. A whole vibration trainee can increase the amount of vibration he receives and place his feet in different positions on the platform to bump up his degree of exercise difficulty, but otherwise, he just stands there and lets the machine do the work. If the machine is used for a long enough period of time, (for example, 15 minutes or more) he can expect to feel mild muscle fatigue as if he'd been doing a gentle work out.

There's some evidence that whole body vibration training is beneficial, especially for people who face challenges that make active exercise (like running, biking, weight lifting, dancing, etc.) difficult. Researchers have studied the effects of whole vibration training on disabled adults, physical therapy patients, athletes, and even astronauts and found that it can be effective for helping people maintain bone and muscle mass. It may also help some people burn calories and increase strength, flexibility, and circulation.

There's not enough research yet to say for sure if whole body vibration therapy is a good replacement for active exercise, but fitness instructors warn that exercise is about more than just the body. Regina Brooks, fitness instructor at Lloyd Athletic Club in Portland, OR says, "When you exercise, you're working your body, mind, and spirit. Vibration training could do the job on some levels, for some people, but it doesn't provide all the benefits of a total workout like resistance training, floor work for core strength, and a solid cardio workout. Most importantly, it doesn't provide the fun factor where you're interacting with friends, an instructor, and other people. If you only participate in passive exercise on a machine, you'll miss out on all the camaraderie."

While whole body vibration therapy is considered safe for most people, it's unclear if there are any negative effects that could make it an unhealthy choice for some patients. Ask your physician before you give it a try and consult with a fitness or health professional for instructions to make whole body vibration safe for you.




Mayo Clinic
Whole Body Vibration Training:  An Effective Workout?
Is whole body vibration a good way to lose weight and improve fitness?
Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development
Volume 46 Number 4, 2009 Pages 529 - 542

Whole-body vibration as potential intervention for people with low bone mineral density and osteoporosis: A review

Julia O. Totosy de Zepetnek, MSc(c); Lora M. Giangregorio, PhD; B. Catharine Craven, MSc, MD