Passive Exercise: Whole-Body Vibration and More
Working out while not really working is the concept behind a trend known as passive exercise. But does it really work?
As with whole body vibration, these machines shake the body from the ankles
up. The big difference is that the moving and shaking goes on while you're
How It Works: You lie on the floor (or a treatment
table) and place your ankles on top of a small square box that basically
vibrates your body from the feet up.
The benefits are supposed to include improved
metabolism, weight reduction, increased energy, muscle relaxation, increase in
cell oxygenation, and stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Some
proponents say that just five minutes on the Chi machine is the aerobic
equivalent of walking for 30 minutes.
Chi machines are also advertised as being beneficial for those with
diabetes, fibromyalgia, lymphodemia, and migraine headaches, as well as those
who want to tone their muscles and lose weight -- all while lying down for just
15 minutes a day.
What the Experts Say:
"This is a totally passive way of
supplying increased circulation to a muscle and that's all," says Varlotta.
"It will not give you increased strength, and it could never replace
exercise done standing on your own two feet."
Quist likens it to the "jiggly belts" used in the 1950s, which
simply caused your body to shake.
"I don't think they ever proved scientifically that those belts did
anything for weight loss, and I think the effect is similar with the Chi
machines," says Quist.
Bryant agrees:"Part of the thinking here centers on the Eastern
philosophies of energy centers and those are being stimulated by this movement
activity, but I have not seen anything even close to science on
that," he says.
He adds that if you just lie on the floor and kick your legs, you would
probably get a similar circulatory effect, along with some muscle toning.
Electronic Muscle Stimulators: Ab Stimulating Machines
It's hard to miss the ads for these products -- svelte, toned guys and gals
in bikinis, showing off their "six pack" abs, ostensibly delivered
courtesy of electronic ab stimulation.
How They Work: You strap on a wide belt wired to a battery.
Stimulation is provided by tiny electrical "shocks" delivered at timed
intervals, designed to stimulate muscle contractions.