Whole-Body Vibration May Be as Effective as Exercise

Whole-body vibration – sitting or lying on a vibrating machine to contract and relax muscles – may be as effective at benefiting metabolic health as exercise, according to an animal study recently published in Endocrinology.

Researchers led by Alexis M. Stranahan, PhD, of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, point out that whole-body vibration (WBV) has gained attention as a potential exercise mimetic, but data on direct comparisons to exercise are lacking. So the team examined two sets of five-week-old male mice – a wild-type group and a leptin receptor-deficient group – for 12 weeks. Mice from each group were assigned to sedentary, WBV, or treadmill exercise conditions. The mice in the WBV group underwent 20 minutes of WBV at a frequency of 32 Hz with 0.5g acceleration each day. Mice in the treadmill group walked for 45 minutes daily at a slight incline. The mice were weighed each week.

The researchers found that exercise and WBV caused the mice in those groups to lose weight and gain enhanced glycemic control. Mice who ran on the treadmill or had WBV also showed modest positive skeletal responses. Obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than obese mice in the sedentary group, although they remained heavier than normal mice. Exercise and WBV also enhanced muscle mass and insulin sensitivity in the genetically obese mice. Although there were no significant effects in the young healthy mice, the low-intensity exercise and WBV protocols were designed for successful completion by obese mice.

The authors conclude that, “taken together, these observations indicate that whole-body vibration recapitulates the effects of exercise on metabolism in type 2 diabetes.” They also go on to note that “WBV warrants further investigation as a strategy to attenuate risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.”

These results are encouraging,” says the study’s first author, Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, PhD, of Augusta University in Augusta, Ga. “However, because our study was conducted in mice, this idea needs to be rigorously tested in humans to see if the results would be applicable to people.”