Until this week, my only knowledge of the association between vibration and fitness came from old cartoons. Watch them long enough, and soon you’ll see somebody jiggling their butt or belly with a vibrating machine attached to a cloth belt on it. (You know the ones.) They were supposed to somehow vibrate your fat away—what a ridiculous idea! Except that now, TikTok has gotten ahold of it, and they’re spreading it around again.
You can now buy cheapish vibration or oscillation plates on Amazon, and that’s what most of the TikTokers seem to be using—although a few film their clips on commercial machines like this one, which you can ask your gym to buy for the low low price of $7,996. In clip after clip, a person—almost always a young woman—stands on the plate, her thighs vibrating madly, as she tells you about how it burns fat and aids in lymphatic drainage, and she’s on day 15 and can’t be sure but she thinks it may be working.
Here are some vibration plates you can buy from Amazon, if you want to try your hand at TikTok jigglefluencing (but please don’t):
- This one plays music and has acupuncture magnets under your feet, for some reason.
- This one is fancier, with handles and a control panel like a treadmill, and appears to have a cupholder conveniently around knee level (?!).
- This is one of the cheapest I’ve found, and hey, it’s red.
What people say vibration plates do
According to TikTok, vibration plates can change your life in just 10 to 15 minutes a day. The claims are pretty much anything you could imagine: they detox you, burn fat, tone your muscles, and more. If it’s a positive, or could be spun as a positive, somebody is saying vibration plates can do it.
The devices’ Amazon descriptions are a grab bag to match. One example: “Fitness Platform Lymphatic Drainage Machine for Weight Loss Shaping Toning Wellness Home Gyms Workout.” Several of these machines’ listings claim that using them for 10 minutes burns 400 calories and is somehow equal to an hour of jogging or 30 minutes of yoga. (What they mean by “equal to” is never explained.)
The TikTokers are usually standing on the plates and telling you that is “how I lost 20 pounds in a month without going to the gym” or saying to use them “when you want runner’s legs but refuse to run unless you’re in danger.”
What vibration plates actually do
It’s strange to see vibration being touted as healthful, because there are known negative effects to vibration—for example, bus drivers who are subject to whole-body vibration through bus seats can end up with back pain or, according to the CDC, potentially even “cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nervous, and urological disorders.” Ten minutes’ occasional use probably isn’t going to cause problems like that, but some TikTokers are using the machines for an hour or more.
There is some evidence that vibration may help bone density in post-menopausal women, although the authors of this review say that the evidence is only strong for machines that deliver more than 30 vibrations per second, and most Amazon machines don’t vibrate that fast. This isn’t one of the TikTokers’ most common claims, but it is a benefit that might be worth considering.
Studies looking at strength generally compare doing exercises on a vibration plate versus doing the same exercises without vibration. Unsurprisingly, there is usually no difference between the two; it’s the exercises that make you stronger, not the vibration. Claims that vibration plates, “force your muscles to contract thirty to fifty times a second,” as one video said, don’t seem to be backed up by evidence.
And what about weight loss? This 2019 review reveals that many studies found no difference between participants who did and didn’t use a vibration plate, but some studies did find a small difference in weight loss. That sounds promising, but people were often doing exercises on the plate (not just standing on it) and the difference in weight loss between the two groups was often too small to be meaningful, even if it did count as a detectable difference.
Bottom line, there doesn’t seem to be any backing for the claims that standing on a plate for 15 minutes will torch calories or melt fat away, much less “detox” you. So stand on your jiggling platform if you like, but don’t expect it to do much for you.
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