It’s proven that the normal aging process results in a loss of functional flexibility, balance and muscular strength. This allows for an increase of a fall risk in seniors’, requiring dependence on others. These slips and falls are a common occurrence in the aging population. Approximately 30% of those over 65 years of age falls at least once a year. Of those who fall, almost half will never regain functional walking.
Musculoskeletal integrity is a major reason why seniors are more susceptible too falling. Recently, researchers have examined skeletal muscle to better understand how it deteriorates with age in order to determine methods of reversing its adverse effects and reducing seniors’ risk of falling.
Research has determined that skeletal muscle mass noticeably decreases by age 45, and declines 0.5–1% each year thereafter. A loss in muscle mass and strength influences the prevalence of falls, thereby reducing the quality of life and perhaps decreasing longevity in seniors. Since aging does not alter the skeletal muscle response to strength training, resistance training (e.g., free weights, exercise machines, rubber bands) is currently the most effective known strategy to combat a reduction in strength. However, resistance exercise programs may not be feasible with seniors who have mobility and/or neurological impairments.
How WBV helps with Balance and Muscle Strength
Whole-body vibration (WBV) has been shown potential as an alternative form of strength training. WBV has benefits over conventional resistance exercise as it generally requires less time and effort, yet evidence suggests it is as effective as conventional training. Typically the vibrations are transmitted through the legs to the body, stimulating the neuromuscular system. With each vibration the platform shifts slightly downward (vertical displacement ~1–10 mm), lengthening the tendon resulting in an involuntary contraction. The platform then shifts back to its initial position and repeats (normal frequency range is 15–60 Hz). By the WBV platform providing both physical and neural overloads, it causes the body’s skeletal and neural tissues to adapt
Numerous published articles discuss the effects of WBV on seniors’ postural control and balance, with most articles showing significant benefits of using WBV to improve balance and/or postural control. The articles that show significant results with whole body vibration suggests WBV can improve elements of fall risk and improve postural control.