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Vibration Plates: Buzzing to Better Health
Vibration plates can do good for your bones as well as your muscles. Read on to learn more about this workout enhancer.
On the treadmill or the weight bench, most gym-goers are likely thinking about building up their muscles. When astronauts in outer space work out, however, they also have to think about maintaining the strength of their bones—and NASA has considered the possibility that doing basic strength exercises atop vibration plates might be the best way to do that.
The technology was invented in the 1970s when Russian scientist Vladimir Nazarov set out to find a way to keep Russia’s cosmonauts in space longer. On earth, our bones are constantly rebuilding themselves under the stresses of gravity and the continual tiny contractions our muscles make in response. For those living in zero gravity—or for regular earthlings who suffer from osteoporosis or limited mobility—studies suggest that vibration-plate sessions might maintain bone density as well as hours of regular activity.
A typical exercise routine on a vibration plate lasts 15 minutes. The athlete stands, squats, stretches, or does resistance exercises as he or she withstands the teeth-buzzing vibrations flowing through their body. The waves produce a stretch reflex in the muscles that is designed to prevent damage. Simultaneously, the muscles contract—to further protect themselves—10–60 times per second, depending on the vibration’s frequency. These opposing reactions cause the muscles to contract and relax at a more accelerated pace than exercise alone could accomplish, potentially making for an unusually efficient workout. A 2009 study in Belgium found that a group of women who performed a regimen of squats, lunges, calf raises, push-ups, and abdominal crunches atop vibration plates lost more body weight than a group who combined the same diet with traditional aerobic exercise, and far more weight than a group who just leaned up against a power generator for a few minutes.