Updated: Mar 3, 2019
If there were one thing that you could do to lower your cholesterol, and blood pressure, prevent osteoporosis, prevent sarcopenia (muscle loss as you age), lower your body’s inflammation, improve sleep, decrease depression, diabetes, back pain, lower your risk of age related falls, maintain your youth, improve your metabolism and help you live longer; would you do it? What about if that included staying independent longer in your golden years? How much would you pay for something like that?
Well, there is something you can do to get all that and much, much more. And it’s relatively inexpensive! All it takes is a little motivation and something called regularity, but the payoff is huge.
Did you know that most seniors spend about $5,000 a year on prescription drugs? That’s over $400 a month and many seniors only get $600 a month from their social security. When you think about that it’s appalling. But what if we knew a way to help prevent the bulk of that happening?
Well, we do. And what is it? What do you need to do, starting today to prevent the above from taking over our lives and eventually our finances during the golden years? Research has shown that strengthening exercises improve your fitness levels, and do all those things I wrote about in the first paragraph. That’s right! A little exercise can go a long way, and it’s not nearly the cost of the average prescription drug payout either.
Exercise, especially using whole body vibration, is both safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns—including heart disease or arthritis—often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes strength conditioning a few times each week. There are numerous benefits to strength training regularly, particularly as you grow older. It can be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them:
Hippocrates famously wrote, “That which if used develops, and that which if not used wastes away.” It’s important to realize that by the time you’re in your 70s, your muscle strength and tone will have declined by roughly 25-35 percent from what you had in your mid-30s. You’ll lose up to 50-65 percent once you approach your 90s. Most of this loss will come from your fast twitch muscle fibers. Therefore your strength, power and agility will be lost along with that muscle. What that means is that starting in your mid 30’s you will (without strength training) lose 5-7 pounds of muscle per decade of life, which will be replaced by 15 pounds of fat (Evans, W., & Rosenberg, I. (1992). Biomarkers: The 10 keys to prolonging vitality. Simon & Schuster.). After the age of 50, this rate of loss can double. If we add into the mix medications such as statins, other drugs and vaccinesthat have heavy metals,and foods with excitotoxins within them, then this rate of loss accelerates above what would be normal.
Light walking workouts will not suffice. Endurance exercise improves our cardiovascular fitness, it does not prevent the loss of muscle tissue because it does not provide enough of a stimulus. Only strength exercise maintains our muscle mass and strength throughout our mid-life years. Technically you need to be lifting at least 65 percent of your maximum lift, or around 12 repetitions to muscle failure, or doing a strength exercise for 30-60 seconds. If you’re not engaging in strength or resistance training, chances are you’ll become increasingly less functional with age, which can and will take a toll on your quality of life.
The gradual loss of strength due to inactivity and age is called sarcopenia. We find that, among other things, aging is characterized by a loss in motor neurons (especially white fast twitch) due to cell death (apoptosis) which accelerates beyond cell reproduction. Can we change this? Yes. Strength training, and especially whole body vibration training has a unique ability to slow this loss down. Now, we understand that there is little need to lose strength at this rate as we age.
The real tragedy with the whole idea of losing strength as we age is the fact that it can immediately influence our independence. Most inactive adults hover dangerously close to their functional strength base line. Any injury, whether large or small can quickly drop them below this line from which few recover. It is not unusual for an elderly person to die within a year of breaking their hip for instance. In most cases it was not the hip that killed them, but their loss of functional strength and ability to function at even barely normal physiological levels.
A study in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation confirms many of the recent trends that show that strength training and whole body vibration exercise reduces arthritis pain. The most exciting part of this study is that it not only looked at pain, but physical function and whether vibration training reduced inflammatory markers that are present in individuals with osteoarthritis. The results show us that we are on the right track in adding whole body vibration training to an individual’s exercise program.
What is interesting is that we have made several advances in medical technology which reveal much about the associated issues with arthritic pain. Certain inflammatory markers are now being associated with arthritis, two of these, called Plasma sTNFR1 and Plasma sTNFR2, are present in higher concentrations. Whole body vibration therapy has been studied in the past on its effect on strength or flexibility, but not so much into the inflammatory markers. If vibration therapy can be shown to affect these markers, that will be a very favorable response to treatment. In the study reported in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 32 elderly women with osteoarthritis were placed into three different groups. One group performed vibration squat exercises, another performed squat exercises without vibration, while the third group was used as a control. The groups performed this one specific exercise three times per week, for 12 weeks. The results showed a definite decrease in inflammatory markers of osteoarthritis after whole body vibration therapy exercises.
In contrast, another study took a look at whether aerobic exercises like walking can decrease these inflammatory markers. They too performed exercises for 12 weeks. The results showed no improvement in inflammatory makers of arthritis. On this level, whole body vibration therapy is seen as being superior for the reduction in the biomarkers of arthritic pain.
Tufts University conducted a strength-training program with older men and women with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis. The results of this sixteen-week program showed that strength training decreased pain by 43%, increased muscle strength and general physical performance, improved the clinical signs and symptoms of the disease, and decreased disability. The effectiveness of strength training to ease the pain of osteoarthritis was just as potent, if not more potent, than the medications used for the same purpose. Similar effects of strength training have been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
One particular explanation for this may be the recent discovery of myokines. Myokines are in a group of cytokines and other peptides which are secreted from skeletal muscles in response to strength exercise. Cytokines are connected with inflammation, but myokines appear to trump the inflammatory effects of cytokines and reduce overall inflammation. In other words, while disease, certain foods and pollutants promulgate cytokine activity, exercise produces myokines which trump many of those outcomes. Several studies have established a role of these muscle-derived factors as important contributors of the beneficial effects of exercise. One study found a type of myokine called CXCL-1 which contributed to increased fatty acid oxidation with concomitant attenuation of diet-induced fat accumulation in the adipose tissue. Clearly this study adds to the concept of myokines playing an important role in mediating the metabolic effects on the ability to burn fat and reduce weight.
Restoration of Balance and Reduction of Falls
As people age, poor balance and flexibility contribute to falls and broken bones. These fractures can result in significant disability and, in some cases, fatal complications. Strengthening exercises, when done properly and through the full range of motion, has been shown to increase a person's flexibility and balance, which decrease the likelihood and severity of falls. Clearly strength training improves the balance and so reduces the chances of falls. A study by Spennewyn in 2003 found significant increases in strength and balance with functional strength training. In our experience, performing functional activities on a whole body vibration machine such as Power Plate has significant value when applied to a strength-balance based program. This is supported also through clinical research of the extremely elderly as well as younger elderly subjects.
Strengthening of Bone
Pre and post-menopausal women can lose 1-2% of their bone mass annually. This loss of bone materials can be accelerated by inactivity, acidic diets and over consumption of soda. Results from a study conducted at Tufts University, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1994, showed that strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for fractures among women aged 50-70. Indeed, whole body vibration has found similar results. At Revibe, with proper exercise on whole body vibration equipment and nutritional intervention we have found 9% annual bone mineral density increases.
Regular strength training exercise can also be effective. One 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University demonstrated 1% gains in hip and spine bone density, 75% increases in strength and 13% increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training. The control group had losses in bone, strength, and balance. Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on reducing risk for falls, which translates to fewer fractures. Other studies find similar results.
Proper Weight Maintenance
Strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories while stored fat uses very little energy. This occurs both at rest and during exercise. Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control. Whole body vibration training is particularly important to weight loss due to the additional muscle activation of a combined functional training activity combined with the vibration stimulus.
Improved Glucose Control
More than 14 million Americans have type II diabetes—a staggering three-hundred percent increase over the past forty years! Something is wrong with the American diet. American activity levels, and the number of vaccinations and pharmaceutical care we are given. The big issue, those numbers are steadily climbing. In addition to being at greater risk for heart and renal disease, diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness in older adults. Fortunately, studies now show that lifestyle changes such as strength training have a profound impact on helping older adults manage their diabete. In a recent study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training produced dramatic improvements in glucose control that were comparable to taking diabetes medication. Additionally, the study volunteers were stronger, gained muscle, lost body fat, had less depression, and felt much more self-confident.
Obviously reducing the intake of processed carbohydrates and especially fructose in the diet will have a huge impact on the reduction of the incidence of diabetes. Recent research on whole body vibration has also found significant improvements in exercising subjects.
Healthy State of Mind
Strength training provides similar improvements in depression as anti-depressant medications. Currently, it is not known if this is because people feel better when they are stronger or if strength training produces a helpful biochemical change in the brain. It is most likely a combination of the two. When older adults participate in strength training programs, their self-confidence and self-esteem improve, which has a strong impact on their overall quality of life.