In the 2000s, a spate of new exercise equipment that utilizes vibrations to reduce weight and tone muscle hit the market. One popular machine is a handheld device that, when in use, resembles vigorously shaking a cocktail shaker. Another machine, which is a platform, vibrates your entire body while you lift weights or perform free-body exercises. The purpose of this type of activity is to increase strength, minimize fatigue, improve endurance and reduce fat.
About Weight Loss
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories through exercise than you consume. Because vibration exercise equipment on its own does not increase your heart rate, you're not going to burn enough calories to burn fat. Many vibration machine manufacturers, however, suggest using the apparatus while lifting weights, doing squats, lunges and other activities. While a variety of scientific studies have investigated the benefits of whole body vibration, most of these studies support the muscle toning and strength training benefits rather than fat loss.
Vibration machine manufacturers logically highlight data that points to the benefits of this type of exercise. A 2010 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" found that low-frequency vibration combined with short-term resistance training may lead to improvements in muscle strength. A 2009 study published in the "International Journal of Exercise Science" that compared vibration-based exercise and free-weight training concluded that the former is useful and can enhance upper body muscle endurance. One study, which you won't find on any vibration machine manufacturer website, published in 2004 in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine," investigated the effects of whole-body vibration fitness training on body composition of 48 untrained women. After 24 weeks, there were no significant changes in weight and body fat percentage between the group assigned to a whole-body vibration training program and a non-exercising group.
Target Weight Loss
Even if vibration exercise does lead to weight loss — which no studies have shown — there's no way to spot reduce just one area of the body. The idea that you can selectively decrease fat on your stomach, or anywhere else, is a myth, according to the American Council on Exercise. ACE goes on to describe a 1980s study conducted at the University of Massachusetts in which volunteers performed 5,000 situps over the course of 27 days. If spot reduction were real, the men in this study would have lost inches on their belly while maintaining fat on their buttocks, back and elsewhere. Fat biopsies taken prior to and after the study revealed a decrease in fat everywhere, including the abdomen. If your caloric expenditure is significant enough using a vibration apparatus, you will lose belly fat as well as fat in your face, arms, legs and buttocks.
Whole-body vibration devices do offer a variety of benefits. Studies show improvement in function for spinal cord injury patients as well as bone-building advantages and increased fall prevention in the elderly. Some experts fear that over time too much vibration can be dangerous, according to a 2007 article published by the Associated Press. Vibrating exercises could lead to blurred vision, low back pain, damage to cartilage, hearing loss or even brain damage. The American National Standards Institute suggests limiting your use of a vibrating apparatus to 30 minutes a day and keeping acceleration levels no higher than 1.1 gs. Overuse could lead to fatigue and loss of concentration. One manufacturer suggests getting approval from your doctor before using the device if you have a pacemaker, eye or ear condition or joint problems.
- International Journal of Exercise Science: Comparison of the Power Plate and Free Weight Exercises on Upper Body Muscular Endurance in College Age Subjects; E.D. Boland; 2009
- American Council on Exercise: Why Is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth? January/February 2004
- Power Plate: FAQs
- Fitness on MSNBC.com: Shake Your Way to Skinny? Experts Fear Risks; 2007