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Nothing but buzz?

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November 05, 2017

Whole-body vibration machines are a good money-maker for manufacturers but they’re certainly not the ‘‘silver bullet’’ to the problems of obesity or osteoporosis, says exercise physiologist Professor Rob Newton.

Whole-body vibration machines are a good money-maker for manufacturers but they’re certainly not the ‘‘silver bullet’’ to the problems of obesity or osteoporosis, says exercise physiologist Professor Rob Newton.

An American study using mice found sitting or standing on a vibration machine for just 20 minutes had similar results to the muscle and bone health benefits of a 45-minute walk.

‘‘Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,’’ the study’s senior author Meghan McGee-Lawrence, of Augusta University, said.

The study published in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology showed the obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than those 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.

Ms McGee-Lawrence also said longer-term WBV treatments held ‘‘promise’’ for preventing bone loss.

However, Prof Newton from the School of Medical and Health Sciences at Edith Cowan University said the findings of this study did not mean much at all when attempts were made to translate them to humans.

‘‘We usually use walking as a control condition because we know the patients will only get little benefit from it, so to come out and say that it’s comparable to 45 minutes of walking is pretty meaningless, to be honest,’’ Prof Newton said.

He said the research on WBV, which consists of a person sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform, in humans remained ambiguous.

‘‘Some have shown some benefits, some have shown none at all. Certainly our studies in cancer patients found absolutely no benefit in terms of muscle and bone.’’

Prof Newton said a well-designed exercise program remained far superior to WBV.

‘‘You can’t compare the increases in strength and physical function, the weight loss that occurs with a well-designed exercise prescription to what occurs when someone stands on a vibrating plate.’’

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