Whole-body vibration (WBV) has been found to mimic the muscle and bone health benefits of regular exercise in a study of mice.
For the uninitiated, power plates vibrate and transmit energy to the body, making the muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second.
“Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combatting some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes,” said lead author Meghan McGee-Lawrence, from Augusta University in Georgia.
“While WBV did not fully address the defects in bone mass of the obese mice in our study, it did increase global bone formation, suggesting longer-term treatments could hold promise for preventing bone loss as well.”
For the study, published in the journal Endocrinology, researchers examined two groups of five-week-old male mice.
One group consisted of normal mice, while the other group was genetically unresponsive to the hormone leptin which promotes feelings of fullness after eating.
Mice from each group were assigned to one of three 12-week exercise programmes involving either sedentary, WBV or treadmill exercise conditions.
The mice in the WBV group underwent 20 minutes of vibrations each day, mice in the treadmill group walked for 45 minutes daily at a slight incline and, for comparison, the third group did not exercise.
The genetically obese and diabetic mice showed similar metabolic benefits from both WBV and exercising on the treadmill.
Obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than obese mice 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.
The findings suggest that WBV may be a useful supplemental therapy for individuals with morbid obesity.
“These results are encouraging,” McGee-Lawrence said. “However, because our study was conducted in mice, this idea needs to be rigorously tested in humans to see if the results would be applicable to people.”