Anyone who's been unlucky enough to spend some time watching late night-television will have seen ads for gadgets like the Power Plate, a vibrating platform designed to speed up fat burning during a workout. But what happens if you drop the exercise, and just rely on the vibrations? A team at the Augusta University has looked into the science behind whole-body vibration, and discovered the technique could mimic the effects of regular exercise.

The team from Augusta University, published by the Endocrine Society – a global organization made up of doctors, scientists, researchers and teachers dedicated to researching and treating conditions caused by the complex network of glands and hormones in the human body – says one reason behind our current obesity epidemic is lack of time. Busy people are finding it tough to fit regular exercise into their routines, leading to increased rates of obesity and diabetes. In turn, these conditions can increase the risk of bone fractures.

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The team at the Augusta Uni sees whole-body vibration (WBV) as a potential solution. WBV machines use vibrations to transmit energy to the body, stimulating our stretch reflex and causing muscles to rapidly contract and relax. It's like a knee-jerk reaction to stimulation, but the reaction is buried deep within our muscle fibers.

In their initial testing, the research team used obese five-week old male mice that were genetically engineered to be unresponsive to a fullness hormone, along with a genetically normal group. Mice in both groups were assigned to sedentary, whole-body vibration and treadmill-based exercise plans, with their weight gain, muscle mass and insulin sensitivity tested regularly.

The WBV mice underwent 20 minutes of vibration per day, while the treadmill mice spent 45 minutes walking at a slight incline. As you might imagine, the sedentary mice did nothing. When subjected to whole-body vibration and treadmill-based exercise, the obese and diabetic mice gained less weight than their sedentary counterparts. At the end of the 12-week study, the animals on the treadmill-based exercise regime weighed just under 90 percent of the sedentary mice, while those on the WBV program were just over 90 percent the final weight of sedentary subjects.

They also returned better muscle mass and insulin sensitivity numbers, both of which could be of huge benefit to morbidly obese human patients. There was no real benefit to the low-intensity vibration or exercise plans when used on normal, healthy test subjects.

"Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes," says the study's first author, Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, Ph.D. "These results are encouraging. 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."

Whole-body Vibration Mimics the Metabolic Effects of Exercise in Male Leptin Receptor Deficient Mice, is published in Endocrinology.

Source: Endocrine Society