Wouldn’t it be nice to get the benefits of a vigorous workout without having to sweat.
Some years ago, Clinton Rubin, a biomechanical engineer at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, set out to develop a non-drug treatment that could mimic the bone-building action of exercise. His research resulted in a compact platform, called the Juvent 1,000, that produces tiny up and down vibrations. Simply stand on the device, and the shaking motion is supposed to make muscles contract and put tiny stresses on the skeletal structure, leading to bone-building activity – just like real exercise.
Some animal and human studies have indicated that the Juvent 1,000 can increase bone mass – making it a potential tool for preventing osteoporosis. A variety of vibrating machines have been popping up in fitness clubs and NASA has even considered using this technique for maintaining the bone-health of U.S. astronauts during long-duration space flights.
But now a new Canadian study, published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine, has cast doubt over the burgeoning field of whole-body vibration. A trial of 202 postmenopausal women failed to show the device could build bone density. Some of the women were asked to stand on the platform for 20 minutes daily at home for 12 months. Other participants served as a control group. Bone density tests were taken at the beginning and end of the trial.
“To our disappointment, we did not find an effect from vibration therapy in these post-menopausal women,” said the senior researcher Angela Cheung, director of the osteoporosis program at the University Health Network in Toronto.
Dr. Cheung can’t say if the findings also apply to other groups because the study focused solely on postmenopausal women.
More research is needed. In the meantime, old-fashion exercise and proper nutrition still seem to be the best drug-free ways to build strong bones.