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Effect of standing posture during whole body vibration training on muscle morphology and function in older adults: A randomised controlled trial

Monica Mikhael1, Rhonda Orr1*, Fleur Amsen2, David Greene3 and Maria A Fiatarone Singh14

Author Affiliations

1 Exercise, Health and Performance Faculty Research Group, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, 2006, Australia

2 Vu University, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands

3 School of Exercise Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Australian Catholic University, 25A Barker Road, Strathfield, NSW, 2135, Australia

4 Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia; Hebrew SeniorLife and Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Centre on Aging at Tufts University, 150 Harrison Ave Boston, Massachusetts 02111, USA

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-74

Published: 15 October 2010



Whole body vibration (WBV) is a novel modality of exercise shown to improve musculoskeletal function. This study aims to examine the effects of standing posture during low magnitude WBV training on muscle function and muscle morphology in older adults.


Nineteen men and women (50-80 years) were recruited to a three month randomised controlled trial and allocated to one of three groups: WBV with flexed knees (FK), WBV with locked knees (LK), or sham WBV with flexed knees (CON). Exposure was intermittent (1 min WBV:1 min rest) for 20 min, three times per week for 13 weeks. Measurements were taken at baseline and at three months. Primary outcomes included upper and lower body muscle function (strength, power and velocity). Secondary outcomes were muscle morphology, balance, habitual and maximal gait velocity, stair climb power, and chair stand performance.


Sixteen subjects completed the study. Relative (%) upper body contraction velocity improved significantly after WBV with FK compared to LK (FK 16.0%, LK -7.6%, CON 4.7, p = 0.01). Relative upper body strength (LK 15.1%, p = 0.02; FK 12.1%, p = 0.04; CON 4.7%) increased significantly following WBV compared to control. Absolute (p = 0.05) and relative (p = 0.03) lower leg strength significantly improved with both standing postures (LK 14.4%; FK 10.7%; CON 1.3%). Only the LK group differed significantly from CON in relative leg strength gains (p = 0.02). Potentially clinically meaningful but statistically non-significant improvements in lower leg muscle cross-sectional area (LK 3.7 cm2, FK 2.4 cm2, CON 2.2 cm2 p = 0.13) were observed after WBV with LK compared to the other groups. No significant effects of WBV on any functional performance tests were observed.


Our results suggest that WBV may improve muscle strength and contraction velocity in some muscle groups in older adults. However, hypothesised differential adaptation to standing posture (FK > LK) was observed only for upper body contraction velocity, making recommendations regarding this prescriptive element inconclusive. The efficacy, mechanism of action and long term feasibility of WBV for musculoskeletal health in older adults warrants continued investigation in robustly designed, sufficiently powered future studies.

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