Over the past several years the gimmicky gadget known as the Whole Body Vibration platform has come on the scene. This expensive piece of equipment has been advertised as offering people a revolutionary way to get into shape, when in effect WBV machines offer nothing more than a new way to separate people from a lot of their hard earned money.
The big marketing push surrounding WBV revolves around some research that was allegedly done by the old USSR space program and work done by NASA that studied the effects of WBV to combat the effects of weightlessness. Cosmonauts, astronauts and mice were studied and there were some very preliminary results – results that didn’t include observations of subjects in a weightless environment – to indicate that WBV could provide an effective treatment for those who spent time in space.
The fact that studies had yet to be conducted in a zero-gravity environment didn’t stop WBVers from advertising the efficacy of WBV based on these yet to be conducted studies. To read the advertising materials from some of these companies a person would have thought that NASA had rows and rows of astronauts standing on WBV platforms humming along and rebuilding bone strength. The reality is that the state of the research was that these studies were actually proposals and hadn’t been done.
At the time these WBV manufacturers were telling people that NASA research indicated that these machines worked, the real research still hadn’t been completed. And what is even more ridiculous is that people thought that because WBV might work in a weightless environment, or combat the effects of being in a weightless environment, that this method of treatment would have any use for the 99.99999% of us who will never be exposed to zero-gravity.
This equipment has been marketed in an extremely deceptive manner in a field where deceptive tactics are all too prevalent. Units that cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of dollars have been marketed and sold to people despite a remarkably thin volume of research that, if anything, indicates that WBV will do nothing for the vast majority of the population.
In May of 2007 the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research contained the details of 4 WBV studies. In reading the details of these studies it is clear that WBV training is not an effective strategy to use for members of the general population.
The study titled, Whole Body Vibration Induced Adaptation in Knee Extensors; Consequences of Initial Joint Strength, Vibration Frequency and Joint Angle found that improvements from WBV were limited to the weakest subjects and that limited improvements were seen in the stronger participants. The researchers conclude that WBV therapy “will” be ideal for the frail and elderly, and otherwise extremely incapable people. As an aside, the fact that the researchers decided to use the word “will” instead of “is” in their conclusion speaks volumes as to the true efficacy of WBV therapy even as it pertains to a segment of the population that supposedly can benefit from its use.
When you consider the expense and likelihood that there are other less expensive, effective methods that can serve as an alternative, this conclusion does not mean that WBV is the ideal therapy for these people. All this study shows us is that WBV treatment is suited for the infirm, not even that it’s the best treatment for the infirm.
The research certainly doesn’t show that WBV is appropriate for members of the general population and people should steer clear of these gadgets and absolutely should not spend money on any WBV machine.