Good Vibrations: Low Impact Exercise Option for Fibromyalgia

Good Vibrations: Machine provides exercise regimens for those who need low-impact options By Carey Hamilton, The Salt Lake Tribune

On a recent Friday morning, a steady stream of clients walked into a small room at Midvale Athletic Club for a 15-minute session with a personal trainer. They didn't pump iron or run on a treadmill. Instead, they worked with a relatively new machine that improves muscle strength and flexibility, increases bone density and helps with weight loss all without having to break a sweat. At least that's what its manufacturers say. Called the Power Plate, the machine resembles a scale, with a large base that clients stand on and a connecting upright pole. You can also sit, lie or put a part of your body on the machine: the makers of Power Plate recommended about 50 different exercises and massage positions.

"I think my circulation has improved, and I feel more energetic," said Irene Mitchell, a Murray woman in her 60s, who just finished a squat position on the machine. Since starting a Power Plate routine about a month ago, Mitchell also has slimmed down. "Anything that can make me lose weight, I'm all for it. And I think it helps with your flexibility too." Whole body vibration: The Power Plate sends vibrations through the body at intervals between 30 and 50 times per second, depending on the frequency setting. The theory is the vibrations cause the muscles to contract at a rate that is hard to achieve through other training methods.

Whole body vibration therapy and the Power Plate are so new in the United States — not quite two years old — that many personal trainers and physical therapists have yet to pass judgment on them. "It's [whole body vibration therapy] a very interesting topic with little scientific research supporting or denying its effectiveness," said Robyn Curtis, a spokeswoman for the National Strength & Conditioning Association in Colorado Springs, Co. Chris Camacho, Power Plate's director of education and training, said whole body vibration therapy has been popular in Europe for years, but is just catching on here. Russian scientists first experimented with it in the 1970s on cosmonauts and Olympic athletes. Professional sports teams, including the NFL's Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs — have used the technology. "The body senses an instability, and you get an involuntary muscle contraction to stabilize yourself," Camacho explained. "It's good for athletes but also good for someone who's never worked out, or is recovering from surgery or is overweight."

Only machine in Utah: Many of the clients at the Midvale Athletic Club, which has the only machine in Utah available to the public, suffer from various ailments and diseases, and need a low-impact option. When Neil Hayward, 50, of South Jordan first started, he had to be held upright by his father and Patty Davis, the club's general manager. Hayward suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. "Neil's muscles weren't ever properly developed, so he's getting them developed more," Davis said. "It's helped strengthen his ankles" so he can stand up for part of the sessions. Another client is a 20-year-old professional golfer from Provo, Davis said. Davis tailors the program to each client. The typical session lasts 15 minutes, with 30 to 60 second sets of exercise or massaging. "We assess each client's needs and abilities," she said. "It's just like regular exercise — you need to rest between sets. It actually does fatigue people and give them the benefits of exercise."

Eventually, Susan Hardy, the club's owner, plans to buy two more Power Plates, which cost about $8,500, and expand that part of her business to Davis and Utah counties. Janet Smedley of Salt Lake City said she makes the drive to Midvale because of the benefits. "Several years ago I could hardly get out of bed, I was in so much pain from fibromyalgia," she said. "Now I work out five times a week. It [the Power Plate] definitely has helped reduce my pain and give me strength." For more information about the Power Plate, visit the manufacturer’s website: Source: The Salt Lake Tribune. © Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.

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