Jan 18 When the elderly can't exercise, doing
stints on a vibrating platform may help them become slightly
stronger, faster and more agile, according to a Spanish study.
The method used in the study, which appeared in the journal
Maturitas, involves standing on top of a flat platform about the
size of a boogie board that sends mild vibrations through the
feet to the rest of the body.
While on the platform, the person does exercises such as
standing or squatting, with bending the knees helping to
transmit the vibrations.
Exercise is the best option for good health in older age,
said lead author Alba Gomez Cabello, but for those unable to
perform aerobic exercise, this vibration technique "could be an
easy and quick treatment to improve physical fitness."
In the study, funded by the Spanish government, 24 men and
women over 65 performed 10 squats held for 45 seconds on the
vibrating platform, with a minute rest in between, three times
per week for 11 weeks. The study also included 25 people who did
not take part in the vibration exercises.
There were some differences between the groups by the end of
the study, although they were small. Those who did the exercises
were, on average, able to do two more reps of upper and lower
body strength exercises, had almost half an inch more lower body
flexibility, and walked 33 yards one second faster than before
the vibration training.
"Whole body vibration is an easy and quick way of exercise
that stimulates muscles and improves fitness," said Cabello, who
studies growth and exercise at the University of Zaragoza,
In theory, vibrations help activate muscles, strength bones
and improve circulation in people of all ages. But the vibrating
platforms have shown mixed results in recent research, improving
balance and muscle tone in some studies but failing to prevent
bone loss in postmenopausal women in another.
There still isn't enough evidence to convince most exercise
scientists to advocate the devices, according to Wojtek
Chodzko-Zajko, who studies aging and physical activity at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign.
"That doesn't mean it's a scam, it means there's really been
very little study of this kind of intervention," he said.
The vibration group did squat reps, while the comparison
group did not, so some of the fitness improvements could have
been due to the squatting exercises and not the vibration.
A better assessment of the true health of older adults would
take into account whether whole body vibration influences
chronic conditions like heart disease and mental health,
depression and anxiety, he said.
His 82-year-old mother has a whole body vibration machine in
her bedroom, which she uses every morning to "loosen up her
Chodzko-Zajko gives her the same advice he'd give anyone: "I
don't think it's going to do you any harm, but don't stop doing
your regular exercise routine."
(Reporting from New York by Kathryn Doyle at Reuters Health;
editing by Elaine Lies)