Whole Body Vibration

November 30, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Exercising is considered an effective means of preserving bone mineral density as part of a comprehensive bone health regimen. In recent years, some medical experts have begun to recommend a more passive strategy to accomplish this same objective. Whole-body vibration (WBV) is a practice in which you lie down, sit or stand on a vibrating platform that sends waves of energy throughout your body. In some instances, specific forms of exercise including squats are integrated into the vibrating experience. In either case, this active or passive activity causes muscles to contract in a manner that is similar to a physical workout. Proponents of whole-body vibration often claim that the physiological response to WBV provides as good or greater health benefits than more traditional forms of physical exertion in less time.

Countering bone loss is a prime selling point of WBV. However, the evidence supporting the countless claims made on the Internet and in the media aren’t as clear cut as one might expect. The most recent trial examining the impact of WBV on bone density was just published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. In it, over 200 postmenopausal women took part in a 12 month study employing two different strengths of vibration therapy, a low-magnitude (0.3g) 90-Hz or 30-Hz WBV, or no exercise at all. The results indicate that daily practice of WBV did not result in positive changes in bone mineral density or bone structure. And, what’s more this disappointing outcome isn’t an isolated observation in the scientific literature. But, some examinations in prestigious medical journals offer a decidedly more positive conclusion. For instance, a few studies have determined that WBV is capable of reducing bone breakdown or resorption, and stimulating bone formation via an increase in osteocalcin levels. In addition, some researchers have noted that WBV improves balance and leg strength – factors which can decrease the likelihood of falls and fractures in seniors. These findings tend to support previous studies which have, in fact, noted important changes in skeletal health in some WBV interventions.

So, what should an informed consumer or physician do with this apparently contradictory data? To my mind, the key is to look at the finer details of the studies in question. The duration, frequency and intensity of WBV treatment needs to be carefully scrutinized and applied accordingly. If you decide to engage in or prescribe WBV, use a protocol that is directly supported by positive clinical trials. Not all WBV should be viewed as equivalent. Furthermore, whenever possible, I think WBV ought to be considered as an adjunct to other forms of exercise, rather than as a replacement. And, ultimately, appropriate testing such as DXA scans should be employed to verify the anticipated bone building effects of WBV or any other treatment modality.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Effect of 12 Months of Whole-Body Vibration Therapy on Bone Density (link)

Study 2 – The Effects of Whole-Body Vibration Training and Vitamin D (link)

Study 3 – A Randomized Controlled Trial of Whole Body Vibration Exposure on(link)

Study 4 – Whole Body Vibration Acceleration Training Increases Bone (link)

Study 5 – Effects of Whole Body Vibration on Bone Mineral Density and Falls (link)

Study 6 – The Effects of Whole Body Vibration Therapy on Bone Mineral Density (link)

Study 7 – Does Whole-Body Vibration with Alternative Tilting Increase Bone (link)

Study 8 – The Effect of 8 Mos of Twice-Weekly Low- or Higher Intensity Whole (link)

Study 9 – Effects of Whole-Body Vibration Training on Different Devices on … (link)

Study 10 – Whole-Body Vibration Therapy for Osteoporosis: State of the Science (link)

Whole-Body Vibration May Reduce Bone Breakdown

Source: Journal of Osteoporosis Volume 2011 (2011) (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Exercise

12 Comments & Updates to “Whole Body Vibration”

  1. anne h Says:

    Reminds me of the Belt-Type Shakers from the 1950’s!

  2. JP Says:

    Ha! Me too! I wonder if those devices strengthened tailbones? 😉

    Be well!


  3. liverock Says:

    Reminds me more of the 60’s!!


  4. Coach Calorie Says:

    People are always looking for that quick and easy fix. In theory, it would seem that vibration could help with bone density, but why wouldn’t you just exercise and get the benefits of increased bone density along with many other health benefits?

  5. JP Says:


    So that’s what Brian Wilson was singing about! Boy was I off base! 😉

    Speaking of the 60’s, rumor has it that Keith Richards used an early model of WBV to shake his martini and stay trim. Ha!

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:


    This is often true in my experience. However, WBV may indeed have a valid application as an adjunct to traditional exercise and/or for those that cannot take part in more physical activities, IMO.

    Be well!


  7. Mark Says:

    It’s American way…weight loss with no effort. The vibration is actually used to shake money from the pockets from the gullible. Somebody say Shake Weights?

  8. JP Says:

    Update: A recent scientific review re: WBV and balance and mobility …


    Maturitas. 2015 Jan 12.

    The effect of whole body vibration exposure on balance and functional mobility in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

    The aim of this review was to systematically evaluate the effect of WBV exposure alone on balance and functional mobility in older adults. A literature search of randomized controlled trials (RCT) reporting the effects of WBV on balance or functional mobility outcomes in older adults, was conducted using multiple databases. WBV-plus-exercise was only included if the control group performed the same exercises as the WBV group, but without vibration. The methodological quality of studies was assessed using the PEDro scale. Meta-analysis was performed if three or more studies measured the same outcome. Twenty RCTs met the inclusion criteria. Eight RCTs compared WBV-only with control and eight RCTs compared WBV-plus-exercise with the same-exercise only group. Meta-analysis indicated that WBV improved single-leg stance (p=0.05) and timed up and go (p=0.004) measures compared with controls. WBV improved other balance and mobility outcomes with inconsistent results. Although balance and mobility appeared to be responsive to WBV-plus-exercise, particularly in lower-functioning patients, compared with WBV-only, caution is required when interpreting the findings. Although there is some evidence for an overall effect of WBV on selected balance and mobility measures, its impact remains inconclusive. Robust RCTs examining WBV-only exposure on balance and functional mobility in older adults are warranted.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update: Fascinating study that combines WBV and the L-citrulline, a rare amino acid …


    Exp Gerontol. 2015 Jan 28;63C:35-40.

    Impact of l-citrulline supplementation and whole-body vibration training on arterial stiffness and leg muscle function in obese postmenopausal women with high blood pressure.

    Aging is associated with increased arterial stiffness (pulse wave velocity, PWV) and muscle strength/mass loss. Exercise training alone is not always effective to improve PWV and lean mass (LM) in older women. To investigate the independent and combined effects of whole-body vibration training (WBVT) and l-citrulline supplementation on PWV and muscle function in women, forty-one postmenopausal women aged 58±3years and body mass index (34±2kg/m2) were randomly assigned to the following groups: WBVT, l-citrulline, and WBVT+l-citrulline for 8weeks. WBVT consisted of four leg exercises three times weekly. Aortic (cfPWV) and leg (faPWV) PWV, leg LM index, leg strength, and body fat percentage (BF%) were measured before and after the interventions. WBVT+l-citrulline decreased cfPWV (-0.91±0.21m/s, P<0.01) compared to both groups. All interventions decreased faPWV (P<0.05) similarly. Leg LM index increased (2.7±0.5%, P<0.001) after WBVT+l-citrulline compared with l-citrulline. Both WBVT interventions increased leg strength (~37%, P<0.001) compared to l-citrulline while decreased BF% (~2.0%, P<0.01). Reductions in cfPWV were correlated with increases in leg LM index (r=-0.63, P<0.05). Our findings suggest that leg muscle strength and arterial stiffness can be improved after WBVT, but its combination with l-citrulline supplementation enhanced benefits on aortic stiffness and leg LM. Therefore, WBVT+l-citrulline could be an intervention for improving arterial stiffness and leg muscle function in obese postmenopausal women with prehypertension or hypertension, thereby reducing their cardiovascular and disability risk.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 05/20/15:


    Int J Med Sci. 2015 Jun 8;12(6):494-501.

    Changes in Bone Biomarkers, BMC, and Insulin Resistance Following a 10-Week Whole Body Vibration Exercise Program in Overweight Latino Boys.

    PURPOSE: With the childhood obesity epidemic, efficient methods of exercise are sought to improve health. We tested whether whole body vibration (WBV) exercise can positively affect bone metabolism and improve insulin/glucose dynamics in sedentary overweight Latino boys.

    METHODS: Twenty Latino boys 8-10 years of age were randomly assigned to either a control (CON) or 3 days/wk WBV exercise (VIB) for 10-wk.

    RESULTS: Significant increases in BMC (4.5±3.2%; p=0.01) and BMD (1.3±1.3%; p<0.01) were observed for the VIB group when compared to baseline values. For the CON group BMC significantly increased (2.0±2.2%; p=0.02), with no change in BMD (0.8±1.3%; p=0.11). There were no significant between group changes in BMC or BMD. No significant change was observed for osteocalcin and (collagen type I C-telopeptide) CTx for the VIB group. However, osteocalcin showed a decreasing trend (p=0.09) and CTx significantly increased (p<0.03) for the CON group. This increase in CTx was significantly different between groups (p<0.02) and the effect size of between-group difference in change was large (-1.09). There were no significant correlations between osteocalcin and measures of fat mass or insulin resistance for collapsed data.

    CONCLUSION: Although bone metabolism was altered by WBV training, no associations were apparent between osteocalcin and insulin resistance. These findings suggest WBV exercise may positively increase BMC and BMD by decreasing bone resorption in overweight Latino boys.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Update 05/20/15:


    J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015 May 23;14:45.

    Short-term effects of the whole-body vibration on the balance and muscle strength of type 2 diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy: a quasi-randomized-controlled trial study.

    BACKGROUND: Patients with diabetes type 2 suffer from many complications such as peripheral neuropathy (PN). PN impairs postural stability and muscle strength. Therapeutic exercise may improve functional abilities of diabetic patients but they are unwilling to participate in exercise programs. Whole Body vibration (WBV) is a new somatosensory stimulation which is easy to use and time-efficient. The effects of WBV on balance and strength of diabetic patients had not been studied; therefore the aim of this study was to assess the effects of WBV in type 2 diabetes patients.

    METHODS: It was a quasi-RCT study performed between March 2011 and February 2013. Twenty patients were randomly assigned into either a whole body vibration group, or a control group. WBV group received vibration (frequency: 30 Hz, amplitude: 2 mm) twice a week for 6 weeks. Muscle strength, Timed Up & Go Test (TUGT) and Unilateral Stance Test and balance parameters were measured at baseline and after the intervention.

    RESULTS: WBV had significantly increased strength of tibialis anterior (P = 0.004) and quadriceps muscles (P = 0.05) after 6 weeks of training. TUGT time decreased significantly (P = 0.001) in the WBV group.

    CONCLUSIONS: Application of WBV enhanced muscles strength and balance in patients with diabetes type 2-induced peripheral neuropathy. The changes may be due to muscle tuning hypothesis and altered postural control strategies.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Update 05/20/15:


    J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2015 Jun;15(2):112-22.

    Acute bone response to whole body vibration in healthy pre-pubertal boys.

    The skeleton responds to mechanical stimulation. We wished to ascertain the magnitude and speed of the growing skeleton’s response to a standardised form of mechanical stimulation, vibration. 36 prepubertal boys stood for 10 minutes in total on one of two vibrating platforms (high (>2 g) or low (<1 g) magnitude vibration) on either 1, 3 or 5 successive days (n=12 for each duration); 15 control subjects stood on an inactive platform. Blood samples were taken at intervals before and after vibration to measure bone formation (P1NP, osteocalcin) and resorption (CTx) markers as well as osteoprotegerin and sclerostin. There were no significant differences between platform and control groups in bone turnover markers immediately after vibration on days 1, 3 and 5. Combining platform groups, at day 8 P1NP increased by 25.1% (CI 12.3 to 38.0; paired t-test p=0.005) and bone resorption increased by 10.9% (CI 3.6 to 18.2; paired t-test p=0.009) compared to baseline. Osteocalcin, osteoprotogerin and sclerostin did not change significantly. The growing skeleton can respond quickly to vibration of either high or low magnitude. Further work is needed to determine the utility of such "stimulation-testing" in clinical practice.

    Be well!


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