Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Vibration training is a topic that we have wanted to tackle for quite some time, but have been putting it off we because it is not quite as simple as some of the other weight loss
The first time I saw a vibration training platform was during my undergrad at the University of Calgary. A researcher was having athletes perform squats on a small vibrating platform, and at the time I thought it was pretty silly. Why would you want to workout on a vibration platform? It sounds like the gimmickiest thing ever. Despite my reservations, however, I quickly learned that vibration training has been shown to increase at least some components of leg strength/power (especially vertical jump height), and has been consistently shown to increase bone mineral density. While the increase in vertical jump height is of little use to most people I know, the increase in bone mineral density seen with vibration training is a pretty cool finding. Osteoporosis is a real problem, and a simple tool that can increase bone density is worth looking into (I believe NASA is also looking into the use of vibration training to reduce bone loss in astronauts).
When it comes to weight loss however, the research tells a different story. While two separate studies (available here and here) suggest that vibration training reduces fat accumulation in rodents, there is no evidence suggesting that vibration training has any effect on body fat levels in humans. In fact, a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine reports that 24 weeks of vibration training had no effect on fat mass in untrained women. Another paper in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation concluded that "this type of exercise is not expected to reduce fat mass in obese subjects".
Not surprisingly, the lack of evidence supporting vibration training as a tool for obesity reduction in humans has not stopped companies from promoting their products as weight loss tools. For example, one of the first claims on the VibraDepot website is that vibration training can burn body fat, something which has no support among the literature that I have read, nor in the literature I found on their website. In fact, VibraDepot has a whole page dedicated to weight loss vibration machines. Most of these, like the VibraPro 5500, are "designed... to provide the user with the ability to use different vibration exercises that focus on specific problem areas like thighs, abdominals, buttocks, and waist...". Exercise cannot specifically target fat loss in "problem areas". As a general rule, any weight loss tool that promises body shaping is a gimmick. From what I can tell, there is no reason to believe that any of these claims are supported by research, otherwise I'm sure they would have included at least one weight loss or body shaping study in their list of research studies supporting vibration training.
Did I mention that these machines cost upwards of $1500 USD? If you want to lose weight, there are a myriad of options that are more affordable (not to mention more effective) than vibration training. Think of the high quality nutritional and diet advice you could obtain with that much money! Vibration training may be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis, or for some high performance athletes, but as of right now there's no evidence to suggest that it is useful in obesity management. If you are still interested in purchasing a vibration trainer of your own, you can visit the VibraDepot website here.
Thanks to Ashlee McGuire and Danielle Gabert for suggesting this topic.
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