Vibration therapy exercises for the elderly: Using accessories

Elderly person for vibration therapy exerciseVibration therapy exercises for the elderly may require some modifications, but the results can be impressive. When someone thinks of vibration exercise machines, the first thing that usually pops up in their mind are the celebrities and athletes that are using these vibration machines. However, vibration exercise equipment is used in physical therapy and rehabilitation centers across the world. One group that really finds some benefit are the elderly. Most vibration platforms come with ‘straps’ that I’m usually quite critical of. In my years of experience, I haven’t found as much effectiveness in using these straps with the fit and healthy person. However, using them with the elderly is a different story. This article goes over some of the accessories that can be used when you apply vibration exercises for the elderly.

New research shows positive benefits of straps in vibration therapy exercises for the elderly

Are you a senior or do you work with seniors? Are you looking to see how vibration therapy exercise can benefit you? There’s been a significant amount of research on the effects of vibration exercise in the elderly. However, most of the studies have involved the lower body. Most of the exercise positions have been of the lower body in direct contact with a vibration platform, although most vibration machines provide straps and / or other accessories with their platforms. That leaves the question on whether these accessories are effective or not. That depended on who you asked. However, a new study just came out that looked at the effects of straps on the upper body. The vibration therapy study done by Pedro Marin in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology looked at whether vibration therapy can increase upper and lower body muscle activity in older adults. The study not only looked at the typical squat exercise, but also looked at the effects of the available straps on the arm muscles. The study demonstrated that the straps did indeed increase muscle activity in the upper arms. This showed that these straps may actually be of benefit with vibration exercises for the elderly. However, let’s take a look at the results and provide you with our experiences in using accessories for vibration therapy for seniors.

Modifying vibration therapy exercises for the elderly can produce better results

The study basically looked at using straps that are connected with the vibration machine while the person was standing on the vibration platform. We’ve experimented quite a bit with straps over the years. Our findings support the use of vibration straps for certain patient populations. However, they are not for everyone, and some people may require additional accessories and tools. The following are some of our key points when dealing with accessories:

  1. Most people that use whole body vibration exercise machines do not perform their exercises in the correct fashion. This is a cold hard fact. I’ve started, run, and training countless vibration exercise studios. For some locations, simply standing on a vibration machine may be enough for that vibration studio.  However, it doesn’t produce the best results, and certainly doesn’t address the upper body. Vibration straps do not work if you are in the wrong position. They work quite effectively when you are in the right position.
  2. The frequency and intensity levels of the vibration platform are also important. This current study by Dr. Marin assessed a low frequency and higher intensity to a higher frequency and lower intensity stimulus. Our experience shows a substantial increase in upper body muscle activation on higher intensity levels and lower frequency. On a vertical vibration platform, going to about 20 to 30 Hertz at a higher intensity level setting produces the most optimal muscle activation.
  3. Straps require a certain amount of tension to produce any results. For example, let’s say you are standing in front of the platform with the straps in your hands and holding a biceps curl exercise position. Simply pulling the straps will either lift the whole body vibration platform up or produce more strain on the biceps. It’s much easier to slightly lean back and create tension in the straps and let the vibration platform stimulus take over. This is also more beneficial for the elderly population that may initially lack any strength to ‘pull’ the straps. I’ve seen people try to pull on the straps so much that they end up spraining their neck. They begin using their upper shoulders and end up doing more harm than good.
  4. Squeezing the hands on the straps is also critical to produce any significant amount of muscle activation going up to the upper arms. Most people will hold the straps lightly. This decreases muscle contractions. The simple act of keeping your hands tight will increase muscle contractions.
  5. There are many other options with accessories if you do not feel the straps will be able to produce any significant benefits. We frequently use therabands in place of straps. You can also use medicine balls, free weights, and even dowel sticks. You are only limited by your imagination. A prominent vibration training export in New Zealand, Lloyd Shaw, uses direct attachments to the vibration platform for upper body work. He’s one of the few in the industry that sees limited benefits of straps and utilizes direct vibration contact. However, most vibration machines on the market may not be able to offer similar options.

As you can see, vibration exercise programs are critical to success. You may have a vibration platform and got a poster or video with it, but that does not go through the step by step positioning that is required to effectively use your whole body vibration platforms to achieve the best success. That’s why we’ve set up our own vibration program website. Interested in getting more detailed exercise programs? Simply click here and watch a free video tour of what you can find inside our membership site. Vibration therapy exercises for the elderly do not have to be complicated and ineffective anymore.

About the Author Dr. Jasper Sidhu

Dr. Jasper Sidhu has been using vibration platforms for over 10 years in rehabilitation, sports, fitness and weight loss settings. In addition to hands on treatment of patients and clients in these settings, he has lectured at various universities and medical association meetings on the application of vibration training.  

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