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5 Benefits of Vibration Exercises in the Elderly

29th April 2015

The weakening of bones and loss of muscle mass are two of the natural consequences of aging that make one more prone to falls and fractures, preventing the elderly from engaging in more intense physical activities and decreasing their overall fitness level.

It is therefore desirable for older people to find a series of physical activities that can keep their muscles and bones strong and help them maintain a healthy weight and good cardiovascular health without requiring too much effort and without putting their health at risk.

Whole body vibration is a safe alternative to conventional workouts and can be practiced by the elderly for both fitness and therapeutic purposes, studies showing that older people who work out on a vibration platform can experience significant health benefits.

How vibration training can benefit the elderly

1. Vibration exercises decrease the risk of falls and improve balance

A randomized controlled trial conducted by Belgian researchers on 42 elders investigated the effects of 6 weeks of vibration workouts and physical therapy on gait, body balance, quality of life and motor capacity.

Results showed improvements in balance and gait score for the whole body vibration group, this form of exercise being a good solution for reducing the risk of fall and improving the quality of life in the elderly.

2. Whole body vibration improves endurance and body composition

12 weeks of whole body vibration exercise was shown to improve the hip and waist size, to lower the heart rate and increase endurance in the static squat test, as well as to improve the walking times in 38 veterans averaging 62 years old, all of them suffering from at least one chronic disease.

These results are very important, as people tend to become less active with age and the sedentary lifestyle affects both the endurance and the amount of body fat, respectively lean muscle mass. With vibration training, these parameters can be maintained within healthy limits.

3. Exercising on a vibration machine helps with lower back pain

60 patients with chronic lower back pain (average age 51.7 years) were asked to perform vibration exercises or isodynamic lumbar extensions for 3 months. Researchers then measured the lumbar extension torque, pain sensation and pain-related disability, and concluded that both groups have experienced a reduction in pain sensation and disability. The lumbar torque was greater in the lumbar extension group than in the vibration group.

The study concluded that although occupational or industrial vibration is a risk factor for lower back pain, exercises performed on a vibration platform under certain parameters are safe and effective in reducing back pain.

4. Whole body vibration exercises improve speed of motion in older women

In a study conducted by researchers at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, 89 postmenopausal women aged 58 to 74 were assigned to either a resistance training, a WBV training or a control group. The vibration training group performed WBV exercises 3 times a week for 24 weeks while the resistance training group performed dynamic leg extensions and leg press exercises.

Parameters measured were the speed of movement, isometric strength and dynamic strength of the knee extensors. Results showed muscle strength increased significantly in the vibration group, improvements being similar to those experienced by the resistance training group.

Speed of motion and jump height also increased in both groups, these results showing once again that vibration exercises are efficient and convenient, and just as good as conventional resistance training for improving the fitness level and muscle strength.

5. WBV reduces arterial stiffness in the middle-aged and elderly

Whole body vibration was shown to be a convenient form of physical activity for the elderly, and to exert beneficial effects on muscles and bones. However, a study published in the journal Clinical interventions in aging showed that WBV is also effective in reducing arterial stiffness without changing the blood pressure or heart rate.

The positive effects of vibration exercises on the cardiovascular system recommend this type of exercise as a beneficial addition or replacement of conventional workouts in older adults.

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