What is vibrational fitness? Vibrational fitness (whole body vibration) involves doing exercises on a vibrating platform. These vibrations cause your muscles to contract reflexively, without your control. What does this have to do with anti-aging?
Glad you asked. Seniors have an increased risk of falls, osteoporosis, and hip fractures. This will likely be an increased concern in coming years as the baby boomers get older. This can place these individuals at risk of losing their mobility and independence. Alongside the anguish that this can cause to the individual and their family, there is increased healthcare costs that go along with this.
The obvious answer is exercise to strengthen the muscles and bones, working on balance and postural control at the same time. More specifically, you need to work on strength exercises in a standing position. After all, if you need strength and stability while standing and walking, you should train while standing, to get the maximum carryover. While standing, you have to provide stability in three dimensions.
Some seniors, however, may have difficulty exercising on their feet due to loss of mobility and balance, sometimes combined with past injuries. This is where vibrational fitness comes into play. It allows those with limited balance and mobility to start in a partial squat position while holding onto handles in front of them, if needed. Initially, the exercises do not require any movement on the participant, the vibrations manually contract the muscles for them, reflexively.
Their body body mechanicsceptors, which sense movement and force, are stimulated, which will help with strength and balance while in a standing position – which is the most important one. You can also place someone with one foot on the platform, knee bent slowly, to simulate the balance needed while walking. As they become accustomed to this, they can bend farther at the knee for greater strength.
Over time, these static positions will progress to dynamic ones, which can add to their ability to be stable while moving, whether getting up from a chair or bending over to pick something off the floor. Activities which can be tough to accomplish for some seniors. Movements that I recommend working on in your 40's and 50's to prevent this difficulty in the first place.
Additional strength and mobility work would add to the overall function of anyone doing whole body vibration training. One of the benefits of training on a vibration platform is the stimulation of fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are important to overall body strength and if not specifically trained with some type of resistance, will lose their size and function as you age. This can put you at an increased risk of falling, or make it difficult to climb stairs. So they are very important to train.
In one study involving women between the ages of 58-74, one of these platforms, the Power-Plate, was shown to increase muscle strength of the lower body and also increase their speed of movement. Another group of women trained on traditional weight machines and also increased their lower body strength. However, the Power-Plate users were the only ones to increase their speed of movement. Being able to contract your muscles quickly may be the difference between falling and not falling.
Another study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, looked at the effects of vibration training on bone density in postmenopausal women. Those working with the vibrational platform increased the bone density at their hip 1.5%, while the traditional training training group managed to slow the rate of bone loss, but not reverse it.
In closing, I think that vibrational fitness may play a huge role in the process of slowing down the aging process. If you have not read my other article on how whole body vibration can influence your quality of life, please do so.