Soloflex and Power Plate Say Yes. What Does Research Say?
Rating: 4.3 of 5
Vibrating Exercise Machines are on the market. They are being advertised in Arthritis Today.
They are becoming very popular due to the many claims. The two most
notable on the market are the Soloflex Whole Body Vibration (WBV)
Platform and the Power Plate. The companies of course give positive
research on these machines. Other research I found does not and I've
found mixed reviews. So, what's the deal? Is it good for you or not and
does it work?
First, What is Vibration Exercise?
Essentially it is mechanical energy oscillations which are transferred to the body as a whole (in contrast to specific body regions), usually through a supporting system such as a seat or platform. The kinds of exposures we are used to include driving automobiles and trucks, and operating industrial vehicles.
Whenever a company makes claims that sound too good to be true they probably are. Some of the claims made by the above companies are:
1. Triggers physical improvements much like a moderate weight training workout. We are told that just standing on a vibrating platform will make us sweat.
2. Will increase flexibility, improved mobility, increase circulation and strength, improve balance, elevate my mood and increase my vitality. All this for only $395 in the case of Soloflex's machine.
3. I can exercise on these machines with dumbbells. I don't have to though. The low amplitude mechanical vibrations that pulse through my body 28 to 60 times a second do the work to improve circulation, strength, flexibility and balance. (Soloflex's claim)
4. Twelve minutes two to three times a week can help build muscle and lose fat, as well as alleviate pain and heal injured muscles. (Power Plate's claim)
Let's talk about the WBV by Soloflex
The Soloflex WBV Platform weighs about 35 pounds. It measures 40 inches long by 10" wide. The platform is basically a weightlifting bench. There is no maximum weight uses for the Platform. The motor draws about 5 amps which is equal to about a 60 watt bulb. You can figure the motor to last for abut 1,000 hours. Soloflex tells us that if I use it 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week the motor will last about 20 years.
It is considered a class 1 Medical Device by the FDA. Those who shouldn't use this are recovering from surgery, have heart disease, neurological conditions, pre-existing deep vein thrombosis, joint implants or are pregnant.
Soloflex suggests using it not just to vibrate but to vibrate while stretching, weight training, and doing Pilates. The company says that "The Soloflex WBV platform is the perfect size, shape and height to perform most free-weight dumbbell and barbell exercises. It's high enough off the floor to allow a full range of motion on bench presses, yet low enough to step off safely if balance is lost during standing exercises."
Although I spent some time doing nothing but standing, sitting and lying on this platform I also incorporated some Yoga and Pilates moves. I could have done virtually any kind of dumbbell work such as bicep curls and bent over rows.
I could control the vibration with a dial. So I could increase and decrease the amount of vibration. I tried it at all different strengths. I mentioned the acceleration levels above. Breaking it down it goes from .3 to .5 to .7, .8, .9, 1 and 1.1. I never broke a sweat from the vibration alone and found no miraculous cure to my autoimmune disorder. (See below for the essay on Sjogren's Syndrome.)
"The Journal of Sports Sciences reports that vibrating while training with weights produces better gains than simply lifting weights alone.
" Whole body vibration may increase the risk for injury, including low back pain and internal organ disruption."
At www.soloflex.com the company says that "The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) has established time limits for allowable workplace exposure to whole body vibration (WBV). The Soloflex WBV Platform safe exposure time is approximately 30 minutes a day at all acceleration levels."
Claims made on behalf of Power Plate are given guarded support by researchers. We are cautioned that studies such as the one done by Jeffry McBride of Appalachian State University are not scientifically valid. In the two studies done by McBride, though some small improvements were found in athletes' vertical jumping, neither study compared one group training on the vibrating plate against a second group that trained conventionally. In other words if there is no control group a study is not sound.
The Bottom Line
The jury is still out. There isn't enough real research as stated in the November/December issue of Fitness Matters put out by the American Council on Exercise.
The machines may be a valid warm up tool; there may be some improved balance in some and not in others (perhaps depending on age). Be aware that many of the studies are sponsored by the exercise company themselves.
So the benefit of body vibration is in scientific limbo.