Monday, April 23, 2012

Let's Get Physical: The Infamous Vibrating Belt Machine

We've all seen the image of a young, smiling vintage beauty being shaken into oblivion by this ancient gadget. Maybe your mom had one, maybe your grandmother had one, or perhaps like most of us, you once saw someone using one on television and simply wondered, in a state of hysterical laughter, what the heck it had to do with fitness. My friends, I invite you to revisit the vibrating belt machine! 

So what does the damn thing DO? Wrap those wide, menacing belts around your target area, switch it on and PARTY TIME! The straps violently shimmy you from side to side into a state of vibrating bliss. This bizarre, and dangerous looking contraption promised to tone muscles, improve blood circulation, and target areas of excess fat using the power of vibration. I found pictures of people using these things dating back to the Victorian era all the way up to the late 60's.  

Internet searches on the fluttering apparatus and how it works were almost fruitless. Most of what I found were either videos of people fooling around on the dusty relic they discovered in their attic, or simply trying to sell them as novelties. One article I did find was by Ellington Darden, Ph.D who received one as a gift, and claimed that it does have fitness value when used complimentary to other physical activity. He quotes a Mr. Dresden Park, masseuse. "Out of curiosity, I started using them on the legs of my sprinters. Maurice (client/sprinter) was one of the first. Others followed his lead. The results were almost immediate. Their bodies became more streamlined. It wasn’t long before they were running faster. Then I tried the vibrating belts on the men’s midsections — and the women’s hips and upper thighs. I couldn’t believe it. The deep-seated fat started melting away." 

Before you run out and buy one based on this information, (and believe me, there are plenty of folks out there trying to get rid of them) he does mention that the vibrating belt routine would not be as effective without additional activity. The catch. 

So what became of the jiggling wonder? Apparently, in the 60's, they were outlawed in gyms in the US due to cheap home versions of the machine causing damage to body parts and organs. Such claims surely shooed them out of the home, and into the realm of camp and comedy. 

Rich in entertainment value, yet fraught with peril for your insides, this retro exercise washout is good for nothing more than collecting dust and entertaining your friends. Stick to your treadmill, ladies and gents, and leave the vibrating-belt business to belly dancers.

Research courtesy of Dr. Darden's High Intensity Training,

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