Researchers have found that a less strenuous form of exercise known as whole-body vibration may work just as well as regular exercise in helping to control diabetes. WBV, as it's called, could also benefit people who find it difficult to exercise.
Scientists say WBV transmits energy through the body when someone is standing, sitting or lying on a gently vibrating device, causing muscles to contract and relax many times each second.
The effect may be to strengthen and increase muscle mass, improving blood sugar control along with other problems seen in diabetes. At least, that's what studies in mice suggest.
Bearing in mind that exercise is good for everyone, including people with diabetes, researchers at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia, studied five-week-old male rodents, comparing the effects of whole-body vibration to that of running on a treadmill.
A cage containing both normal and specially bred obese, diabetic mice was placed on a gently vibrating platform for 20 minutes per day for 12 weeks.
Another group of rodents — both diabetic and healthy mice — was trained to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day for the same period of time.
A third group of diabetic and healthy mice remained sedentary and were used for comparison.
Investigators saw similar health benefits in the diabetic mice that ran on the treadmill and those exposed to whole-body vibration.
Meghan McGee-Lawrence, an assistant professor in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia, said the results of the study showed that "vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes."
McGee-Lawrence said mice subjected to whole-body vibration and those that ran on the treadmill were both able to decrease fat in the liver, improve insulin sensitivity and increase muscle fiber.
While there was improvement in the biomarkers of diabetic WBV mice and treadmill mice, they never became as healthy as the normal animals.
During the study, the mice were weighed weekly. Researchers found that the diabetic mice subjected to vibration and the treadmill gained less weight after the study was over than the sedentary rodents.
There was also evidence that whole-body vibration might improve the bone strength of diabetics.
The study was published in the journal Endocrinology.
McGee-Lawrence said researchers are now trying to determine the mechanisms that underlie improved diabetes control in both exercise and whole-body vibration mice.
More study urged
There are vibrating chairs and beds available on the market, but McGee-Lawrence cautioned people against starting a routine of whole-body vibration and thinking they are controlling their diabetes.
"We know that some whole-body vibration ... seems to be good for the body, but too much can be a bad thing," she said. "And in terms of finding ways to apply that [to humans] ... I think we need some more studies to guide us on that so that when folks start doing this, we get the best beneficial effects we can without running the risk of having any potential side effects."
One potential harm of too much vibration, often seen heavy-machine operators, is tissue inflammation.
If researchers are able to repeat the results in humans, McGee-Lawrence said, whole-body vibration could be a useful add-on to the treatment of diabetes.