The quest for weight loss leads us to many different products and programs, some of which claim amazing results with the least amount of effort. Passive exercise equipment manufacturers claim that participants can lose weight by not moving a muscle, and without sweat or effort. The question is how 12 minutes on a passive exercise machine compares to 90 minutes of vigorous exercise.
The term "passive" is the opposite of the word "active," and early passive exercising was performed with assistance. Therapist-assisted exercise was performed for people who were physically disabled. The movement helped circulation to prevent blood clots and to relieve the pain and swelling associated with inactivity. Passive exercising was temporarily prescribed for patients recovering from strokes, heart attacks and some surgeries requiring long periods of bed rest.
Passive exercise equipment began to appear in health clubs and studios, and also is marketed for home use. The equipment uses vibration therapy aimed at stimulating muscles and circulation. Some machines require participants to stand or sit on plates that revolve, and your muscles contract to stabilize your body. Other machines target your legs by having you lie on your back and placing your legs in cuffs. The machines move your legs, so require no effort.
Stimulating muscles and improving circulation are methods that have been shown to increase metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories. When the amount of calories burned is more than the amount of calories eaten, excess body weight is reduced. However, the amount of calories burned on passive exercise equipment is not significant enough to promote weight loss. Reducing the amount of calories eaten while using passive equipment might result in weight loss, but the loss is more of a result of dieting than using the passive equipment.
There are medical benefits with the use of passive equipment. Leg machines can be used as part of rehabilitation programs. Using the machines after knee surgery promotes tissue repair and cartilage growth while improving your range of motion. There is a minimized risk because the machines are non-weight bearing: Your legs can move without bearing body weight. People who cannot exercise can improve their lower-body mobility and overall circulation with passive training equipment.
Passive machines are recommended for those who cannot physically participate in an exercise program. For those who can exercise, passive machines do not provide the same health and fitness benefits that can be achieved with an active exercise program.