Stand on a vibrating platform and shed pounds. No exertion required. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, maybe not.
A recently-released study from Belgium looked at the effects of whole body vibrating machines (in this case one known as Power Plate), which are in a growing number of health clubs. The researchers assigned 61 subjects - all of them overweight or obese - to one of four groups: 1) a restricted-calorie diet and no exercise; 2) diet plus a conventional fitness program consisting of activities such as swimming, cycling, and strength training; 3) diet plus vibration training; and 4) no diet, no exercise. So who were the biggest losers? Believe it or not, the vibration group. After six months, they had lost 11% of their body weight, compared with 7% of the conventional exercisers and 6% in the diet only group. (The control group's weight increased slightly.) After one year, the vibration group had maintained their weight loss more than the others.
The study, presented at a European obesity conference, has not yet been published. But it comes on the heels of published research out of the University of Oklahoma, which found that in older women, resistance training plus whole body vibration decreased body fat more than resistance training alone.
So how can this be? The machines' vibrations of 30 to 50 times per second are thought to trigger the body's reflex response, which causes muscles to contract. But the evidence regarding benefits is still preliminary, and some scientists are concerned about unknown risks.
Even if whole body vibration lives up to the claims, it shouldn't replace regular exercise. Instead, use it as a way to supplement to your routine. As these clips on videogame exercises and exercise gadgets for the office remind us, technology can add some fun and variety to your workout, and as a result, help you stick with it. Now get shaking.