Gently vibrating your body to a healthy state is still a radical idea but one that seems to be gaining adherents.

This eye-opening vibrating technique is called “Whole-body Vibration” or WBV. It is a form of passive exercise that first appeared in the U.S. in the late 1990s and gained popularity in the first decade of the 21st century as a form of fitness training.

WBV requires a person to stand on a platform that typically vibrates at a frequency of 15 Hz (hertz) to 70 Hz, and an amplitude of 1 to 10 millimeters. Amplitude is the maximum displacement or distance moved by a point on a vibrating body.

The human body is said to automatically adapt to "repeated, rapid, and short intermittent exposure to oscillations" from this type of vibrating platform. This finding prompted researchers to classify WBV as a "light neuromuscular resistance training method."

In WBV, the human body is deliberately exposed to varying frequencies, amplitudes and forces using certain joint angles for a limited time (about a minute per set). WBV employs low amplitude, low frequency and mechanical stimulation.

This stimulation can be pivotal or oscillating (vibrating from side to side) or lineal (vibrating up and down). This technique is also called vibration therapy, vibrotherapy, biomechanical stimulation (BMS), mechanostimulation and biomechanical oscillation (BMO).

While WBV can offer some fitness and health benefits, it isn’t clear if WBV is as beneficial as regular physical exercise.

WBV, however, has shown to improve bone mineral density in the lumbar spine of postmenopausal women. It can also achieve the same effect in the femoral neck of postmenopausal women younger than 65, according to a 2018 meta-analysis.

Pioneered by scientists in the former East Germany in the 1960s and taken-up by Western European scientists today, WBV and its health effects remain controversial -- but promising.

WBV applied at frequencies ranging from 12 Hz to 30 Hz showed to improve balance and muscle strength of several muscle groups in the legs. This meta-analysis concluded that WBV is a therapeutic modality that can offset functional impairments in children with cancer.

It should be used in conjunction with an exercise therapy program to promote an active lifestyle. There is little and inconsistent evidence that acute or chronic WBV can improve the performance of competitive or elite athletes.

While unsuitable for competitive athletes, WBV has its value for the average person.

Research on WBV showed this technique can improve muscle performance, bone density, strength, and balance. It’s also been claimed to reduce body fat over the long term.

Proponents claimed previous research has also shown that WBV can also reduce inflammation and even "reverse many symptoms" of type 2 diabetes such as frequent urination and excessive thirst. WBV is also said to improve blood sugar control and insulin resistance, as measured by the standard glucose tolerance test and the hemoglobin A1C blood sugar test.

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