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.
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.
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 mouse model of morbid obesity 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 muscle cells, which also are important endocrine organs that secrete and respond to hormones.
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.