Whole body vibration has same health benefits as treadmill walking in a model of obesity and diabete

March 16, 2017, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
Drs. Alexis M. Stranahan (left) and Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence. Credit: Phil Jones

A daily dose of whole body vibration- like time on a treadmill—reduces body fat and insulin resistance and improves muscle and bone strength in a mouse model of morbid obesity and diabetes, researchers report.

Twenty minutes daily for three months on either a treadmill or a vibrating platform also reduced fat deposits in the abdominal region where it's particularly problematic for the heart and general health, as well as on the liver, where it can produce damage similar to , said Dr. Alexis M. Stranahan, neuroscientist in the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

And, while the bones didn't actually look much different, both activities also increased circulating levels of osteocalcin, a protein made by bone-producing cells called osteoblasts and incorporated into bone to help make it strong, said Dr. Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, biomedical engineer in the MCG Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy.

The findings, published in the journal Endocrinology, have the scientists concluding that whole body vibration recapitulates the positive effects of exercise on metabolism at least in their of and diabetes. Because, interestingly, the comparatively light activity didn't have the same impact on trimmer more naturally active mice that, left to their own devices, might just run six miles a week.

"Every time you walk or run or stand on a vibrating platform, your bones are experiencing sheer stress and that sheer stress can change how those metabolically relevant hormones get released," said Stranahan, the study's corresponding author.

"I think the exciting thing about this study is that it shows you can apply the mechanical load in a different way. Whether you are walking on a treadmill, running on a treadmill or standing on a vibrating platform, it's still a mechanical load," said first author McGee-Lawrence.

Actually just shaking bone and/or muscle cells in a dish will produce some of the same metabolically positive responses, Stranahan noted. In fact, the scientists think the vibration benefits result from getting our cells moving.

While all cells likely respond to movement, there is a lot of evidence of movement's impact on bone and , which also are important endocrine organs that secrete and respond to hormones. "The bone is increasingly recognized as more of an endocrine organ because it can secrete hormones that tell the liver and the pancreas what to do," Stranahan said. "We know that mechanical loading is good for the skeleton, but the way those cells sense the load, despite decades of research on this topic, nobody really knows," McGee-Lawrence said. "That is kind of a big question mark in the field right now." And, one of many she and her colleagues are pursuing.

Circulating osteocalcin, for example, has the additional benefit of enhancing insulin production by the pancreas. Its levels are typically reduced in obese humans and their rodent models but its positive associations had the scientists thinking that load-bearing activities like walking or vibration would yield similar beneficial results.

In fact, whole body vibration seemed to at least partially normalize the pancreas' response to glucose, which is to make more insulin, which helps the body use the sugar as fuel rather than have high circulating levels wreaking havoc wherever blood goes. They also note that while osteocalcin levels were higher in exercising or vibrating obese/diabetic mice than their sedentary counterparts, levels weren't restored to that of more active, trimmer wild types.

Directly manipulating osteocalcin levels - rather than indirectly changing them through exercise or vibration - will further parse the impact on blood sugar control, Stranahan said. Future studies also need to compare the impact of the active and passive movements on a more genetically diverse obese animal population, the scientists said, to begin to draw conclusions about how their work translates to genetically diverse humans. They also want to look further at the impact of whole body vibration on the brain, including cognition as well as areas that impact metallic regulation.

The MCG team knew that while normal mice might run great distances essentially forever, young obese and diabetic models may start out running more than two miles weekly but then dribble off to a sedentary state, Stranahan said. For the studies, the scientists used this lower threshold of 2.5 miles, which wasn't sufficient to push the bones, muscles or metabolism of trim, active mice, but made a significant difference for the diabetic/obese ones. Other studies have shown further pushing the limits of trim, active counterparts do reap similar benefits, Stranahan said.

While they might not want to keep running, the obese mice didn't seem to mind when their cages were placed on a vibrating platform. They could still easily move around the cage and levels of the rodent form of the stress hormone cortisol did not increase, McGee-Lawrence said.

Still, like everything else, vibration is about balance. Too much, like the heavy pounding that results from using a jackhammer, may actually damage the skeleton and rest of the body, Stranahan said, noting that more typical exercise in excess does damage as well.

"It's nice to know that there are potentially other options out there, like whole body vibration, that could have some of the same beneficial effects as exercise and yet be less strenuous or something that could accommodate different schedules or levels of physical activity," McGee-Lawrence said, noting that while some of us may not want to exercise, others of us cannot because of physical and/or time limitations.

Clinical trials already are looking at the impact of whole body vibration in the elderly, patients hospitalized with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and young people with cerebral palsy. The MCG scientists are hopeful their work will further fine tune efforts to get the maximum, safe benefit of vibration.

Consumers can already buy their own whole body vibrating devices, including models that look like weight scales for under $100, others that look like a short treadmill for closer to $2,500 and vibrating belts for under $20.

Bone tends to strengthen in response to weight-bearing exercise and some studies have suggested that quite literally because of the extra weight, obesity reduces the risk of weak bones and osteoporosis. However newer reports indicate the extra poundage actually reduces bone formation. Fat even gets deposited in the bone down to the marrow where it appears to interfere with bone formation, the scientists said.

"There is so much more to obesity than weight," McGee-Lawrence said. "There is inflammation, there are a lot of metabolic changes, all of those combined can really have a negative impact on the skeleton. If you look at fracture risk, for example, in people with type 2 diabetes, they have an increased fracture risk, that means there is something going on where you are impacting the quality or the amount of ."

Explore further: Whole-body vibration may be as effective as regular exercise

More information: "Whole-body Vibration Mimics the Metabolic Effects of Exercise in Male Leptin Receptor Deficient Mice," Endocrinology, academic.oup.com/endo/article- … 10.1210/en.2016-1250

Related Stories

Whole-body vibration may be as effective as regular exercise

March 15, 2017
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, according to a new study published in the Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

Mouse with weaker bones, stronger metabolism points toward new diabetes therapies

June 15, 2015
One mouse with weak bones appears to have a strong metabolism, even on a high-fat diet, scientists report.

Bone-derived hormone suppresses appetite in mice

March 8, 2017
A hormone secreted by bone cells can suppress appetite, according to mouse studies conducted by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers. The hormone—called lipocalin 2—turns on neurons in the brain that ...

Bone hormone boosts muscle performance during exercise but declines with age

June 14, 2016
When we exercise, our bones produce a hormone called osteocalcin that increases muscle performance, according to a study publishing June 14 in a Cell Metabolism special issue on aging. Osteocalcin naturally declines in humans ...

Obesity and type 2 diabetes harm bone health

November 17, 2015
Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been linked to several health issues, including an increased risk of bone fractures. In a new animal study, University of Missouri researchers examined how the development of obesity and insulin ...

Exercise, surgically removing belly fat improves cognition in obese, diabetic mice

February 26, 2014
Cognitive decline that often accompanies obesity and diabetes can be reversed with regular exercise or surgical removal of belly fat, scientists report.

Recommended for you

Exercise-induced hormone irisin triggers bone remodeling in mice

December 13, 2018
Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling ...

Law professor suggests a way to validate and integrate deep learning medical systems

December 13, 2018
University of Michigan professor W. Nicholson Price, who also has affiliations with Harvard Law School and the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, suggests in a Focus piece published in Science Translational Medicine, ...

Pain: Perception and motor impulses arise in brain independently of one another

December 13, 2018
Pain is a negative sensation that we want to get rid of as soon as possible. In order to protect our bodies, we react by withdrawing the hand from heat, for example. This action is usually understood as the consequence of ...

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Researchers give new insight to muscular dystrophy patients

December 13, 2018
New research by University of Minnesota scientists has revealed the three-dimensional structure of the DUX4 protein, which is responsible for the disease, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Unlike the majority ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.