Whole Body Vibration Has the Same Health Benefits as Walking

A daily dose of whole body vibration, such as time on a treadmill or a vibrating platform, reduces body fat and insulin resistance and improves muscle and bone strength. That is the finding of research in a mouse model of morbid obesity and diabetes done at August University in Georgia and published in March 2017 the journal Endocrinology.

A release from the university notes that Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, neuroscientist in the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, said that twenty minutes daily for three months on of whole body vibration also reduced fat deposits in the abdominal region where it’s particularly problematic for the heart and general health, as well as on the liver, where it can produce damage similar to excessive alcohol intake.

Also, Dr. Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, biomedical engineer in the MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy said that while the bones didn’t actually look much different, time on a treadmill or a vibrating platform increased circulating levels of osteocalcin, a protein made by bone-producing cells called osteoblasts and incorporated into bone to help make it strong.

The findings have the scientists concluding that whole body vibration recapitulates the positive effects of exercise on metabolism at least in their mouse model of morbid obesity and diabetes. Because, interestingly, the comparatively light activity didn’t have the same impact on trimmer more naturally active mice that, left to their own devices, might just run six miles a week.

“Every time you walk or run or stand on a vibrating platform, your bones are experiencing sheer stress and that sheer stress can change how those metabolically relevant hormones get released,” said Stranahan, the study’s corresponding author.

“I think the exciting thing about this study is that it shows you can apply the mechanical load in a different way. Whether you are walking on a treadmill, running on a treadmill or standing on a vibrating platform, it’s still a mechanical load,” said first author McGee-Lawrence.

Actually just shaking bone and/or muscle cells in a dish will produce some of the same metabolically positive responses, Stranahan noted.  In fact, the scientists think the vibration benefits result from getting our cells moving.

While all cells likely respond to movement, there is a lot of evidence of movement’s impact on bone and muscle cells, which also are important endocrine organs that secrete and respond to hormones.