In the fitness world, there always seems to be a plethora of new products, tools and must-haves that become popular and then fade away with time. However, the whole-body vibration plate is one tool the fitness community should not leave on the back burner. Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) isn’t just the latest fad at the gym — WBV provides proven health benefits:
- Strengthens muscles
- Increases bone mass
- Increases blood flow
- Increases flexibility
- Stimulates lymphatic system
- Decreases cortisol levels
According to Biomedical Health & News, the idea of using vibration for health benefits dates back to ancient Greece, using “body vibration machines as a therapeutic methodology to help soldiers recover from their injuries. They utilized a bow-like wooden instrument and would ‘pluck’ the strings of the bow to allow it to vibrate over soldiers’ wounds.”
Over time, the concept of whole-body vibration transitioned from unproven to serious science when the Russian space program used it to simulate the weight of gravity for cosmonauts who would otherwise lose muscle tissue and bone density while living in microgravity.
While professional athletes have been using vibration for years to enhance performance, this therapy is beneficial for anyone at any age who is interested in improving his/her health.
As you sit or stand (always with knees at least slightly bent) on the vibration plate, your muscles contract and relax 30 times each second. As your body works to regain stability, multiple muscle fibers become engaged in each movement, significantly amplifying the effectiveness of any movement performed on the plate. This is why doing squats on a vibrating plate requires so much more energy than doing them on the ground. To make the most of your time on the WBV plate, consider performing dynamic strength exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, etc. The variation applied in different angles enhances the performance of the exercise by activating more muscle fibers which leads to muscle growth and increased muscle density.
Lower Blood Pressure
Whole-body vibration has also been shown to reduce arterial stiffness. In each study, the test subjects’ blood pressures were lowered significantly. At least six independent studies published within the past 10 years have documented the link between whole-body vibration and lowered blood pressure.
Stronger Bone Density
WBV performed three times per week for 15 minutes has been shown to improve bone density, providing a drug-free alternative to osteoporosis prevention, management and improvement. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “WBV is an effective method to improve lumbar spine BMD (bone mineral density) in postmenopausal and older women and to enhance femoral neck BMD in postmenopausal women younger than 65 years.”
Better Balance, Flexibility, Coordination
During traditional exercise, muscles contract one to two times per second as opposed to 30 contractions per second while using a vibration machine. Standing, or better yet, performing exercises on the vibration plate engages your core and hip flexors to stabilize your body. This makes your body work harder and eventually the muscles around the joints grow stronger. Over time, you’ll notice that your balance, coordination, posture and flexibility have improved.
Increase Immunity and Stimulate Lymphatic System
As muscles repeatedly contract and relax, the blood circulation in your body increases. Increased blood flow makes sure that your muscles are oxygenated which speeds up the recovery process and rejuvenates the body. Improvement in blood circulation also leads to faster metabolic waste removal.
WBV therapy also stimulates the lymphatic system causing an immune response in the lymph nodes and giving the body better defenses against illness. WBV exercise also causes the lymphatic system to drain more efficiently, getting trapped fats and toxins on their way out of the body through the natural filters of the circulatory system. This is especially important for the aging body where lymph health is more vital to overall health.
Lower Cortisol Levels
While cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands, is important for helping your body deal with stressful situations, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. When cortisol levels remain high over an extended period of time, they can cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels and contribute to diabetes. Studies have even shown that WBV can significantly lower cortisol levels in as little as five minutes.
The whole-body vibration plate can serve as a great warm-up or cool-down from activity or simply as a supplement to your regular exercise and recovery regimen — many fitness and wellness facilities use this tool for both recovery and performance. At Generator Athlete Lab, we recommend a 5- to 7-minute dynamic movement routine either prior to vigorous exercise or 7 to 15 minutes performed after the recovery protocol to flush the lymphatic system and help improve bone mineral density. For your next workout, give WBV a try!
Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT, is a co-founder of Generator Athlete Lab and has been an athlete her whole life. As the creator of the Generator Method, Tranchina works to help guide others to better performance and recovery and is passionate about bringing the active community of Austin together from all fitness levels and athletic backgrounds. NASM-CPT, A.R.T certified provider, CKTP.