Review: mikhael et al. and Cardinale
Vibration devices like these http://www.wholebodyvibrationmachine.com have been studied for their effects on various measurements (muscle strength/power, bone density) for over a decade. I’ve been asked about it recently by a few clients and a practitioner I work closely with, so I decided to dig around a little and find out what researchers are saying about it.
I found many studies, two of which were recent reviews. I’ll start with Cardinale and Wakeling from the British Medical Journal in 2005.
“…current knowledge on appropriate safe and effective exercise protocols is very milited, and claims made by companies and pseudo-experts can be misleading”
I was happy to see that quote, getting right to the bottom-line in one of the opening paragraphs. The authors go on to explain why vibration training may work in different populations, but repeat that much more research is needed to arrive at any conclusive answers. The basic jist from this paper is vibration training is probably not worth it for athletes (trained subjects) but may provide a benefit for older or special populations (improved vertical jumping ability, increase in muslce strength, increase in fat free mass), especially since almost no technique or effort is required.
Mikhael et al.
Interestingly enough, after the positive words for elderly populations by Cardinale and Wakeling, this paper dives into WBV for elderly populations specifically. After a literature search, only 6 papers meet their criteria for review. The authors state:
“There appears to be no consensus as to the efficacy of WBV for bone and muscle outcomes in older adults.”
While the authors are encouraged by the few studies that show a positive result, much more research is needed before we can draw conclusions about WBV training in the elderly population. In rehabilitation situations, it is likely these wouldn’t be used by the individual consumer anyway, due to cost. So, they would most likely be prescribed by a therapist and use in their office or clinic.
These conclusions aren’t all that surprising. Something like WBV training is hard to study. When you have a few different variables, like amplitude and frequency, of the device in addition to the usual variables of exercise research, you end up with a big mess of maybes and what ifs. Some of the studies I’ve looked over in addition to these reviews are pathetic in terms of design, which basically makes them worthless. But, we can rely on the quality information we do have and hold out for some better evidence!
Of course, if any of you are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars and try one, a little anecdotal evidence might be fun!
Cardinale M, Wakeling J. Whole body vibration exercise: are vibrations good for you? Br J Sports Med. 2005;39:585–589
Mikhaela M, Orra R, Fiatarone Singha MA.The effect of whole body vibration exposure on muscle or bone morphology and function in older adults: A systematic review of the literature. Maturitas. 2010 Feb 18. [Epub ahead of print]