In the never-ending search to help people live their healthiest lives without actually moving, researchers have revisited an old exercise method designed to induce the effects of exercise with little-to-no effort on your part. New mouse research on vibrating plates - the gym machines that look like bloated versions of your doctor's old-school scale - suggests simply standing on one can deliver results akin to more strenuous exercise.
Originally designed to help astronauts maintain their strength on space missions in the absence of gravity, vibrating plates work by sending tiny shockwaves through the body, triggering an involuntary contraction in your muscles.
In the new vibrating plate study, which was published in the journal, Endocrinology, mice that withstood 20 minutes of whole-body vibration a day for 12 weeks increased their muscle mass and improved their insulin sensitivity, which moderates calorie burn and hunger levels, just as much as mice that walked for 45 minutes a day on a treadmill for 12 weeks.
How Humans Can Benefit
While Real Scientists don't tend to trust animal studies to predict exactly how human bodies will behave IRL, this new evidence is considered promising since it supports pre-existing human research on the method, which found that dieters who do basic exercises like squats, lunges, crunches, push-ups, and calf raises on a vibrating plate lose more body fat and belly fat, and are more successful at maintaining these results, than dieters who do conventional exercise without a vibrating plate.
It's why, even without further research, experts are already recommending good ol' vibrating plates, particularly for obese people. For them, vigorous exercise isn't just extra difficult, but exceedingly painful.
“Standing on a vibrating platform for 5, 10, 15 minutes can actually make cells stronger, maybe help [obese people] lose a little weight, and get them better prepared to eventually start exercising,” said Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, to Time.
For people who can physically work out without extreme discomfort, but would prefer not to exert all that effort: Standing on a vibrating plate while you plank, lunge, or squat can trick your body into thinking you've amped up the intensity and likely deliver better results faster.
Can't I Just Do Nothing?
Despite the mouse study's findings, it seems you will have to do more than stand on the vibrating plate and switch the thing on to benefit: "What we see in gyms very often - people just standing on the machine holding the handles - is not going to do anything," said Dirk Vissers, the physiotherapist who led the human study on vibrating plates back in 2009, in a press release.
It could be because the machine itself doesn't directly raise your heart rate. It only counts toward cardio if you incorporate aerobics.
How to Try It
If you're lucky, you'll find one of these vibrating plate contraptions at your gym and jump on it while performing exercises you'd typically do on the floor.
If your gym isn't so snazzy, you can buy a compact vibrating plate to keep at home for less than $250. Hey, no one said shortcuts are cheap, or roommate-friendly. (Good luck explaining why your room is buzzing without things getting super awkward.😜 )
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