Do you ever wish there was an exercise where you just sit there and do nothing while the work just happened for you? This is the idea behind popular ab vibration machines, which claim to work your ab muscles without your doing anything.
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Although science does support some benefits to these supposedly miraculous electric belly fat burner belts and other vibration machines, it's important to note that working your abdominal muscles relentlessly will not spot reduce your belly fat. More to the point, a vibrating belt machine is no replacement for real physical activity and a healthy diet.
No, vibrating belts won't burn belly fat. Although electric vibrations have the potential to tone your muscles, they will not spot reduce fat from a specific area of your body.
What’s an Ab Vibration Machine?
Search the internet for ab vibration machines and you'll likely find dozens of different models with similar claims: that making your muscles vibrate is the same as working them with exercise, so you can get a full ab workout while you relax and watch television — no actual movement required.
The Food and Drug Administration explains how applying electrical current to muscles may cause them to contract, potentially making them stronger or more toned, but these products are not intended to burn fat or result in major changes to a person's appearance without healthy eating and regular exercise. The FDA even emphasizes that no electronic muscle stimulators have been cleared for weight loss, girth reduction or developing abs.
Toning muscle rather than burning fat is an important distinction to make, because nothing can reduce body fat in one specific area (what's often referred to as "spot reducing"). Whether you're working those muscles via a machine, crunches or sit-ups, you might get a flatter stomach because your abdominals are stronger, not because you are losing belly fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
However, Harvard does note that you are right to want to lose abdominal fat, as this type of body fat can be especially bad for you. Visceral fat, which lies deep down between the organs, has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
The American Council on Exercise agrees that spot reduction is a myth and that people cannot target areas of their body with isolated exercise. When fat cells release fat for energy, they don't care which muscles in the body are being worked most frequently.
Read more: The Truth About Targeted Weight Loss
Does It Tone Muscle, Though?
OK, you think, so a vibrating belt machine doesn't necessarily spot reduce my belly fat, but will it actually tone my muscles as it claims?
Well, maybe. As Mayo Clinic explains, using vibrations to force contractions and relaxation in muscles might have a few scientifically supported benefits, but it's nowhere near as efficient as exercise.
Because vibration does affect your muscles, whole-body vibration training has gained traction in some circles. The American Council on Exercise highlights how both the NFL and NASA — not to mention numerous gyms and rehab centers — have adopted whole-body vibration as part of their routines, and some studies, such as one published in September 2018 by PLOS One, have found that whole-body vibration training indeed aids weight loss.
However, vibrations may pose some risk for people who are pregnant or have health problems, so you should consult with your doctor before using such equipment. And if you're really serious about losing belly fat, be prepared to put forth more effort than strapping on an ab vibration machine.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends engaging in moderate to intense physical activity for 30 minutes to an hour every day and eating a diet centered on complex carbohydrates, lean protein and unsaturated fats.
- American Council on Exercise: “Whole Body Vibration Training: Can You Really Shake Yourself Fit?”
- American Council on Exercise: “Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn”
- PLOS One: “Whole-Body Vibration Training in Obese Subjects: A Systematic Review”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It”
- Mayo Clinic: “Is Whole-Body Vibration a Good Way to Lose Weight and Improve Fitness?”
- Food and Drug Administration: "Electronic Muscle Stimulators"