Many people find it challenging to exercise regularly and this in turn is fueling the obesity and diabetes epidemics that is spreading all over the world. Physical activity can help to decrease this risk and reduce the negative metabolic effects of these conditions. A new study now shows that a less strenuous form of exercise known as whole-body vibration (WBV) can mimic the muscle and bone health benefits of regular exercise in mice. WBV consists of a person sitting, standing or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform. When the machine vibrates, it transmits energy to the body, and muscles contract and relax multiple times during each second.
The study conducted by researchers at the Augusta University in Georgia, US, is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combatting some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes.
"While WBV did not fully address the defects in bone mass of the obese mice in our study, it did increase global bone formation, suggesting longer-term treatments could hold promise for preventing bone loss as well," said researchers behind the study.
To conduct the study, researchers examined two groups of 5-week-old male mice. One group consisted of normal mice, while the other group was genetically unresponsive to the hormone leptin, which promotes feelings of fullness after eating, and was thus obese or diabetic.
The mice were then divided into three groups and put on a 12-week exercise program. One group underwent 20 minutes of WBV at a frequency of 32 Hz with 0.5g acceleration each day. A second group walked an inclined treadmill for 45 minutes daily. The third group did not do any exercise. Mice were weighed weekly during the study.
The genetically obese and diabetic mice showed similar metabolic benefits from both WBV and exercising on the treadmill. Obese mice gained less weight after exercise or WBV than obese mice in the sedentary group, although they remained heavier than normal mice. Exercise and WBV also enhanced muscle mass and insulin sensitivity in the genetically obese mice. Although there were no significant effects in the young healthy mice, the low-intensity exercise and WBV protocols were designed for successful completion by obese mice. These findings suggest that WBV may be a useful supplemental therapy to combat metabolic dysfunction in individuals with morbid obesity.
The researchers said that though the results were encouraging, the fact that the tests were conducted on mice meant that the idea needed to be rigorously tested in humans before the results could be said to be applicable to people.