Vibration therapy for weight loss likely conjures up the image of a large belt placed around somebody’s hips, shaking them. It likely also instills feelings of incredulity that it may be an option for weight loss, as videos of this now-antiquated method are usually shown in humor. It turns out, recent studies have uncovered evidence pointing to some benefit to vibration therapy- but it’s not the method of the 1930s!
We’ve come a long way since then. Recent studies have explored whether vibration therapy, specifically whole- body vibration (WBV), has potential to support weight loss goals. The Mayo Clinic shares that with whole-body vibration, you stand, sit or lie on a machine with a vibrating platform. As the machine vibrates, it transmits energy to your body, forcing your muscles to contract and relax dozens of times each second. The activity may cause you to feel as if you’re exerting yourself.
According to a study published in the journal Endocrinology, 20 minutes a day on a vibrating platform over the course of three months reduced fat in the abdomen and liver and increased levels of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens bones. Other research also shows some reduction of back pain. The preliminary studies that showed these promising results were mostly done with male mice, and additional studies need to be done to explore whether results might translate to human participants.
Advocates of vibration therapy say that when used regularly, other benefits include enhanced blood flow, reduced soreness after exercise, and a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol. Several recent studies also suggest that regular vibration therapy, in combination with diet and exercise, can be as effective as aerobic exercise. One study completed in 2016 separated women into three groups:
- dieting only
- dieting and vibration training
- dieting and aerobic exercise
While all three groups lost body fat, at the end of the study those in the groups that dieted and exercised or utilized vibration therapy lost more body fat than those that only dieted.
More evidence also points to the potential that WBV reduces systolic blood pressure. Whole body vibration has been demonstrated to reduce hardening of the arteries among populations ranging from men in their mid-twenties to postmenopausal women. And in each study, the subjects’ blood pressure was lowered significantly. In one study, researchers monitored obese or overweight women over the course of six weeks to understand the impact of vibration therapy on arterial stiffness and blood pressure. At the end of the 6 weeks, the women who underwent vibration training had a significant decrease in their systolic blood pressure compared to the control group. Previously, researchers in Japan also found that reflexive muscular engagement through whole body as a result of vibration exercise significantly increased blood flow and oxygenation.
One of the benefits of exercise is the ability to decrease blood pressure levels by way of improving cardiovascular health. Evidence showing that WBV may decrease blood pressure and reduce arterial stiffness, much as traditional exercise does, provides people who are unable to pursue typical exercise methods an option to treat hypertension without pharmacological interventions. Compounded on that is that any potential weight loss further supports healthy blood pressure levels.
Without a doubt, it is intriguing and exciting to have another tool available to reach a healthy weight. Until additional studies are done, the exact effectiveness of vibration therapy for weight loss remains unknown in humans, although some benefits (like lower blood pressure) do appear to be consistent in human studies. Please speak to your provider before pursuing any weight loss journey to thoroughly consider all aspects, as some studies have found that prolonged exposure to vibrations can increase the risk of developing injuries in the neck, shoulder, back, and hip.