Can you “shake” or “vibrate” your way to better bones? Whole body vibration machines claim to do just that and there are scientific studies to support them! Science aside there is a logical aspect to the use of these machines in how they aid in maintaining and improving aspects of our health. Benefits people who have been using them for decades are experiencing and that science is just beginning to understand and validate.
There are many types of machines, settings, exercise positions and different types of users! There may never be enough research to explore every aspect, but these plates are growing in popularity especially with older or more inactive populations. Lifepro’s vibration plates simply offer a passive, low impact activity that is easily tolerated by most users. Using vibration plates are fun, fast and effective. This is key when dealing with other conditions like arthritis, hypermobility, instability, or fatigue where more traditional forms of exercise are too difficult, painful and just hard to get into the habit of doing regularly.
To understand how whole body vibration machines can contribute to stronger, healthier bones and other aspects of our health, it is important to first know a little about how our body builds and maintains bones as we grow and age.
Bones are ever changing throughout our lives and play a part in every movement we make. As new bone is forming, old bone is broken down and reabsorbed. When you are young, your body creates new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most of us will reach our peak in bone mass around 30 years old. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you will lose slightly more bone mass than you gain. Poor nutrition, toxicity, inactivity and other factors can contribute to poor bone health. It’s important to build as much bone mass early on in life to allow for more “reserve” as this equation begins to change.
Nutrients, exercise, and our natural exposure to gravity all play key roles in the development and maintenance of keeping our bones strong and healthy.
Nutrients play a critical role in bone development as we are growing as well as in maintaining good bone health as adults. Throughout our lives bone cells continually break down and are replaced by new ones.
Calcium is the main mineral in our bones and is what keeps them strong. It’s important to consume calcium to protect bone structure and strength. As we do not always absorb the same amount that we take in, it is ideal to consume foods and supplements throughout the day.
Vitamin D & K are also important for good bone health. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D which can be obtained thru diet, supplements and daily exposure to sunlight. Vitamin K affects our osteocalcin, a protein involved in bone formation. Vitamin K enables osteocalcin to bind to minerals in our bones helping prevent the loss of calcium keeping them strong.
Exercise - in particular, strength training and weight bearing exercises are recommended for keeping our bones strong and healthy. When we are active our muscles pull on our bones as they expand and contract through movements, strengthening our bones as well as contributing to bone flexibility. Exercise also improves cardiovascular health and helps decrease the risk of falling or other injury by improving balance, stability, strength, and our overall health in many ways.
Gravity - As we stand on the ground and naturally bear our own body weight, our bones are resisting gravity - an ever existent force that helps our bodies maintain bone density, muscle strength, balance, cardiovascular health and much more. Gravity is measured in G’s and our exposure here on Earth equates to 1 G of force. Our modern world and it’s conveniences have evolved and our day to day tasks require less physical labor, more sitting and much less weight bearing (standing) activities. This has contributed to a functional decline where our lack of exposure to gravity in weight bearing positions can accelerate how we age. Much like what astronauts experience in space where we are not exposed to gravity, our muscles, bones and other factors decline “aging” us faster.
This is truly where the concept of whole body vibration (WBV) began to gain traction. Even though vibrations have been applied for therapeutic use since Egyptian times it wasn’t until the early 19th century we saw technical standards comparable to those used today. During the Russian space program, doctors found that astronauts suffered from bone loss and fractures at a much younger age than normal. They began to use vibration therapy to help strengthen astronauts’ bone mass and muscles. Today, NASA continues to use vibration therapy to help prevent bone loss. In early days WBV platforms or plates as we know them today were shown to improve bone health, muscle strength and other factors in astronauts that experienced functional declines due to prolonged exposure to low or no gravity environments when in space. A vibration machine is an ultra low impact environment, a hyper gravitational environment that can increase our exposure to gravity. By increasing gravitational load on their frail, de-conditioned bodies, it was shown to counteract and increase the effects of weight bearing exercises with less time and exertion to the user in comparison to doing similar exercises via traditional methods.
How much we can increase our exposure to gravity and what each individual person can tolerate to achieve these enhanced effects will vary. What has not been explored is every possible factor related to the current industry of WBV.
Based on what we know about how our bodies build and maintain bones, even just standing on a Lifepro vibration plate in theory will have positive effects similar to traditional weight bearing exercise. If we can increase our exposure to gravity above the already 1 G of force we know we are exposed to can there be more effects? Can we reverse these functional declines? The answer is yes, and there are several studies supporting these conclusions. A quick google search could leave you surfing for days with over 11 million references. Certainly not all references relate to vibration plates but the body of research is large and growing. Whole body vibration studies vary greatly in their protocols, platform movement type, frequencies and amplitudes applied as well in the type of exercises, durations being performed and other parameters. Much of the research has been conducted on medical/commercial platforms capable of upwards of 30 Gs of force but access to these devices is challenging and costly. Most vibration machines available today are low to mid energy (Gs) and users are seeing great results in the comfort of their own home. We’ve referenced a few examples in this category below with links for additional reference:
Effects of whole body vibration exercises on bone mineral density of women with postmenopausal osteoporosis without medications: novel findings and literature review. The aim of this study was to review the literature to determine the effect whole body vibration exercise (WBVE) may have in the bone mass density (BMD) in patients with postmenopausal osteoporosis without medications.
Three reviewers independently assessed bibliographical databases. The frequency of the mechanical vibration used in the protocols varied from 12 to 90 Hz. The amplitude or peak-to-peak displacement varied from <1 mm to 12 mm, the peak acceleration from <1 to 8.3 g. The duration of the protocols varied from 2 months to 22 months, according to the aim of the study. Researchers concluded that Whole Body Vibration Exercises (WBVE) are relevant non-pharmacological option, as one of the modalities of exercises recommended for the management of postmenopausal osteoporosis. More studies must be performed to the establishment of the parameters for protocols as well as relevant outcomes.
Turner et al, 2011 using low frequency for 2 months, with less <1 g of peak acceleration reported a significant reduction of a marker of bone resorption when compared with sham vibration exposure: Randomized Controlled Trial of Whole Body Vibration Exposure on Markers of Bone Turnover in Postmenopausal Women Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia wanted to examine the effects of two doses of low-frequency (12 Hz), low-magnitude (0.3 g), whole body vibration on markers of bone formation and resorption in postmenopausal women. Low-frequency, low-magnitude vibration (12 Hz, 0.3 g) three times a week leads to a potentially clinically meaningful 34.6% reduction in NTx/Cr, a marker of bone resorption, whereas one day per week exposure appears insufficient.
Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking: a randomized controlled trial The aim of this study was to compare the effects of WBV using a reciprocating platform at frequencies lower than 20 Hz and a walking-based exercise programme on BMD and balance in post-menopausal women. After 8 months, BMD at the femoral neck in the WBV group had increased by 4.3% (P = 0.011) compared to the Walking group. In contrast, the BMD at the lumbar spine was unaltered in both groups. Balance was improved in the WBV group (29%) but not in the Walking group.
It will take more time and study to identify optimal platform movement, settings, duration and other parameters for different populations. What we do know is that being active is critical to building strong bones as well as our overall health. Lifepro Vibration machines offer a viable alternative to traditional exercise modalities with less impact, less effort and more exercise effects in less time. They also happen to be a lot of fun and many Lifepro members find themselves using them regularly.
Are you active now? Perhaps working on a bone density program with your PT or trainer? Many of the positions you are doing (or are supposed to be doing) can be performed on a vibration plate. Whether it's squats or stretches, using a vibration plate can make them more effective, more convenient and offer other benefits you may not even be aware of.
Whether you are dealing with medical concerns or you are a performance athlete, a vibration machine is simply a tool, an environment that can be used to aid in recovery/therapeutic applications right up to a high intensity workout. Seek experienced guidance if you are dealing with health issues or using whole body vibration for medical applications.