Vibration plates first came to our attention on 24-hour infomercial channels, claiming we could lose weight simply by standing on them and letting the good vibes get to work. The tiny shockwaves these machines send through you are meant to make your muscles contract, strengthening and toning your body. Too good to be true? A new study says maybe not.
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Published in the journal Endocrinology, the study involved subjecting obese mice to 20 minutes of whole-body vibration (WBV) once a day for 12 weeks. The result? An increase in muscle mass and improvement in insulin sensitivity – the same as a control group that walked on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day for the 12 weeks. “Whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said Meghan McGee-Lawrence, the study’s senior author.
This sounds like pretty good evidence for throwing in the towel and getting your vibe on. But not so fast. Exercise physiologist Professor Rob Newton says that the study is "meaningless" – not only because mice and humans are completely different species, but because walking is not much to compare to.
"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," Newton told SBS News.
However, not all hope is lost. A 2009 study into the effectiveness of WBV machines said that, although they shouldn’t be used to replace cardio, they could be an alternative to weightlifting – if used correctly. According to the study’s leader Dirk Vissers: “Supervision in the beginning is imperative. What we see in gyms very often – people just standing on the machine holding the handles – is not going to do anything.”
Want to give them a go at your local gym? Instead of standing still, try doing basic exercises on them, like squats, push-ups, lunges and crunches. As for that workout that burns fat while you do nothing? Back to the drawing board.