Some time ago I came across this article saying that whole body vibration training is used by astronauts to prevent mass loss and to keep their bones healthy. You may not know, but the lack of gravity in space can severely affect the systems of the human body, leading – among other conditions – to muscle mass loss and weaker bones.
The term used for defining the loss of bone mass in astronauts is spaceflight osteopenia, and it’s proven that astronauts typically lose an average of 1% of their bone mass per month, while in space. Also, it’s known that it generally takes them 1 to 2 months to recover after a 1-month mission in space, and if we think of the fact that some of these guys spend 6 months admiring the earth from its orbit, it’s only logical to ask ourselves what is it that they do to prevent this bone loss or if they do something to prevent it.
I found this topic to be very interesting, especially since over 10 million people suffer from osteoporosis (or bone loss) only in the U.S. So I was curious to see whether there are scientific proves to support the use of whole body vibration machines as means of therapy against bone loss.
What does science say about WBV and bone mass?
If you have the time to do some browsing, you’ll see there are hundreds of scientific articles published on this topic, and the great majority say that whole body vibration has positive effects on bone mass. I won’t list them here, but it’s still worth mentioning some of the things highlighted by scientists in these articles. So here we go:
- This study, conducted in Germany and published in March this year, in the Journal of Musculoskeletal & Neuronal Interaction analyzed the effects of resistive exercises combined with whole body vibration in post-menopausal women with osteopenia, after 9 months of therapy. The first group, of 26 women, performed two training sessions per week, their program mixing resistive exercises with WBV, while the second group (31 women) performed resistive exercises and balance training. Results showed significant increases in bone density and strength, proving that WBV is a valid replacement for regular therapy when it comes to increasing bone density at the distal tibia, in women with low bone mass.
- This study investigated the effects of whole body vibration on bone density, in people with thalassemia. This condition affects the density of bones, making them thinner and brittle, and increasing the risk of fracture. Researchers have found that daily sessions of 20 minutes of WBV therapy, performed for 6 months, lead to a significant increase in whole body BMC and serum markers of bone formation. What these complicated terms actually say is that WBV can be an effective therapy for people with thal.
This study showed that 10 weeks of WBV training increases hip bone density and preserves spine bone density in road cyclists. And you can find hundreds of similar studies online, if you’re curious to learn more about these vibration machines. So what we can say for now is that whole body vibration is surely an effective form of therapy for people with low bone density or suffering from conditions that affect their bone mass.