A few years ago, I heard of a new state-of-the art vibrating machine that was supposed to work miracles just by standing on it. One of my members had tried the machine and was trying to convince me I should get one for our gym, but he lost me at “vibrate”.
To be honest, I didn’t even investigate it. I always stick to the school of thought, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. While this machine claimed to solve all your problems, and it supposedly had scientific studies to prove its effectiveness, I preferred to stick to old-school fitness – the kind that takes work and promises no shortcuts. But, could I have been wrong?
To my surprise, this crazy vibrating machinery is still making its way into gyms and being sold in stores. So, as part of my Fit or Flop challenge, I decided to do some investigating to learn more.
How It Works
The machine has a vibrating plate you stand, sit or even lie on. As the machine vibrates, the theory is your body reacts to the vibration, contracting and relaxing muscles multiple times per second. Apparently, you are suppose to actually feel as if you are exerting yourself, but I’m not too clear on what that looks like. I know when I exert myself in the gym, I’m out of breath and sweating like a pig. I can’t image standing on a vibrating plate would wear me out like a standard workout, but that’s their claim anyway.
There are several brands and variations of vibrating plate machines, but each profess their machine tones and sculpt muscles faster. Advocates say it is supposed to cut training time in half and work muscles you can’t “reach” during conventional training. Supposedly, just 15 minutes a day three times a week, may aid in weight loss, as well as provide many other benefits including increased flexibility, increased range of motion, increased joint mobility, decreased stress, increased recovery, increased healing from injuries and increased circulation.
Outside of the traditional world of fitness, some supporters say it helps increase strength, reduce back pain, improve balance and reduce bone loss, especially in rehabilitation cases. However, the FDA has not approved the device for medical use.
I did a little more research and found a few studies, but none that really impressed me. One interesting study had a test group perform various exercises using a vibration plate machine. The results were very positive across the board, but it was unclear if the results were positive because they were doing exercises or using the machine?
The study didn’t have a comparison group of people doing the same exercises without the machine so it was incomplete data in my opinion. Of course people are going to get great results exercising, but would they get the same results exercising on the floor?
As I sought out reliable sources like WebMD and science journals, it seemed I wasn’t the only one coming up empty-handed. Aside from increasing bone density, there seems to be no real solid evidence it is worth the $3,000 to $10,000 price tag.
Pros and Cons
So, when I still have questions about a fitness gadget, the next thing I do is look at the pros and cons. Not only has the FDA not given their stamp of approval, OSHA (Occupational & Safety Hazard Association) says vibration exposure can have harmful effects. Long-term exposure to vibration can also cause impaired vision, hyperventilation, nausea and some disorders such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Experts also say it can be harmful if you are pregnant or have health issues.
Fit or Flop?
While I do believe there are people out there that really love their vibrating machines, I have to simply compare the vibrating system to traditional exercise – and when you put them side by side, traditional exercise has been proven to do all the things the vibrating systems claim.
Traditional exercise has been proven to accelerate weight loss, increase bone density, improve balance, increase circulation, increase range of motion, increase muscle strength, tone muscle, decrease stress and countless other physical benefits. So, why would anyone pay so much money fo something that still isn’t a sure thing? They’re lazy. Oops! Did I write that out loud?
The truth is, as long as we have people who aren’t willing to commit to regular exercise, there will always be people who will fork out serious dough on machines like the vibration plate in hopes of an effective shortcut. But, as far as I’m concerned, I give the vibrating plate a big fat shaky flop.