Is whole-body vibration beneficial for seniors?

Researchers have determined that WBV training can reduce fall risk and improve postural control in seniors.

Normal aging processes result in losses of functional flexibility and muscular strength, which increase seniors’ fall risk and dependence on others. A relatively new intervention to reduce and/or reverse the adverse effects of aging is whole-body vibration (WBV) exercise.

Over the last century, life expectancy has increased dramatically to the point that individuals in developed nations can expect to live beyond 80 years of age.

Slips and falls are a common occurrence in the aging population. Approximately 30% of the community-dwelling population over 65 years of age falls at least once a year. Of those who fall, 50% will never regain functional walking

Resistance Training – 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 sarcopenia and increase strength. However, resistance exercise programs may not be feasible with seniors who have mobility and/or neurological impairments.

Whole-body vibration (WBV) has 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. WBV training normally consists of performing static and/or dynamic exercises on a vibrating platform.

Typically the vibrations are transmitted through the legs to the body, stimulating the neuromuscular system. With each vibration the platform shifts slightly, lengthening the tendon resulting in an involuntary contraction. The platform then shifts back to its initial position and repeats. By the WBV platform providing both physical and neural overloads, it causes the body’s skeletal and neural tissues to adapt. Pairing WBV with a common task, such as a squat, has been reported to increase electromyographical activity, strength, power, balance and postural control in the muscles being trained.

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