Vibration training and the elderly population

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In the past I have spoken about how whole body vibration training can be utilized for athletes, people undergoing rehab, and for those just looking to tone up and put a little spin on their current workout routines. Whole body vibration training really can be applicable for anyone. I had the opportunity to speak with a physical therapist friend of mine who talked to me about the benefits of whole body vibration training in elderly populations. As I have said before, vibration training can be used by anyone to improve muscle strength, postural control, and performance. Young people can certainly see improvements from its use but let’s explore vibration training and its benefit for an elderly population.

One of the biggest concerns elderly people face is their loss of independence. In most cases this comes from age related losses in muscle and strength, also known as sarcopenia. Elderly people tend to lose confidence in walking because of strength losses. Their steps become smaller and their stance becomes wider in an attempt to prevent falls. As a trainer I find it difficult to load up the geriatric population with weight. However, I realize that the goals of a seventy five year old in the gym don’t look anything like the goals of a twenty year old athlete. Older people want to see improvements in posture, walking speed, and the ability to get up from a seated position without any assistance.

In a study on whole body vibration training with elderly patients the testers discovered that low volume whole body vibration training would provide a safe and effective way to improve chair rising performance. Another study that measured muscle strength and mass in older women showed very promising increases in mass, isometric contraction strength, and even showed the ability to fight off the loss of muscle power that was observed in the control group. Vibration training allows the participant to stand on a vibrating plate that forces the muscles to rapidly contract. This provides a safe and effective environment for de-conditioned elderly people to train and make strength gains. The best part for elderly people is that they can make gains in a static position while standing on the vibrating platform as opposed to the dynamic movements they would have to do to get the muscle contractions that vibration training provides. The evidence out there seems very conclusive that the elderly population is yet another demographic that can benefit from vibration training.

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