New Fitness Machine Hits Flathead Spas

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Kendra Peña steps barefoot onto a two-foot-wide metal plate, lining her feet up at the width marked as three. When she hits the start button, the plate vibrates. “My butt is jiggling,” screams Peña with peels of laughter.

Peña dropped into Montana Body Vibes in the 33 Baker Spa for a test drive of the machine that has Whitefish buzzing. Whole body vibrating machines, which transmit a speedy sequence of jiggles, offer a new way to stay in shape without perspiration or buildup of lactic acid. The first machines just hit the Flathead in early September, and already a Eureka spa has ordered two more.

Whole body vibration machines are quick and simple to use. Ten basic programs geared towards varying outcomes walk participants through an introduction, workout and relaxation phase. The feet line up in a different stance for each phase, and the vibrations change, from five to 50 jiggles per second. Step on for 10 minutes and feel vibrations like a massage.

Lila Tomlinson, owner of Montana Body Vibes, opened her first whole body vibration machine company last winter in Sparwood, outside Fernie, B.C. This fall, she launched the state-side company, offering the vibration fitness service as well as serving as the Montana representative for the Italian company that produces the machines.

It’s easy to be a skeptic about whole body vibration. After all, the claims sound just like technological snake oil, especially when advocates equate the benefits of 10 minutes on the machine with one hour of weight training or two hours of running.

The machines, invented by Russian scientist Vladimir Nazarov, were designed to prevent cosmonauts from losing muscle mass and bone density in space. NASA has tested them as well.

Physiotherapists discovered medical benefits of whole body vibration in fighting osteoporosis and depression. The machines also leapt into exercise science. Athletes toned muscles, increased core stability and developed muscle strength by adding its use to their workout regimens. Several NFL and NBA teams own machines. Even Madonna and Lance Armstrong have touted its effects.

While the vibration machines were invented to combat muscle atrophy and bone loss, users have found aesthetic side effects, too. Spas want their weight loss, cellulite reduction and body remodeling properties. “I’m hooked,” says Tomlinson, who doubted the claims when she first climbed on a machine. However, when combined with a walking routine, she found the vibrations beneficial in helping her shed 40 pounds in the past year. She also discovered improvement in her skiing, with increased stamina and quad strength.

But Tomlinson is quick to add that it’s not a replacement for regular exercise, for the machine provides no cardio workout. “It enhances a workout,” she says. “It stimulates muscles from the cellular level. If you want to lose inches, you can’t go home and eat chocolate cake.”

She also notes that whole body vibration is not for everyone. Pregnant women and people with recent surgeries, implants and pacemakers are among those who should not subject themselves to its jiggling.

Tomlinson’s Italian machines also come equipped with small screens dancing with oscillating lights. When room lights dim, the flashing colors stimulate serotonin and melatonin hormones, she says. Sleep therapists use those hormones to treat insomnia.

Not everyone is enamored with whole body vibration machines. Some call it a gimmick. The machines are expensive, running around $10,000. Critics also decry what they call its scant inconclusive research and hype spinning the beauty and health industry’s marketing wheels.

Whole body vibration advocates recommend three sessions per week. But Tomlinson says some users prefer jiggling daily or twice a day with at least six hours in between sessions.

“That was wicked,” laughs Peña as she steps off the machine. “I’m going to be a bombshell for Christmas.”

Tomlinson is offering free trial sessions. Call 270-1900 to schedule an appointment.