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?

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

You're lying on the sofa, maybe munching a bag of chips, and watching your favorite movie on DVD. And ... you're toning your abs? That's the picture painted by some proponents of passive exercise, a fitness trend based on the idea that you can pretty much do nothing and still work out, if you have the right equipment doing the work for you.

But could this really work? WebMD asked three experts to offer up their opinions on four of the top passive exercise trends: whole-body vibration, chi machines, electronic ab stimulators, and inversion boots. So grab that bag of veggie chips, prop up your feet, and read on -- their answers might surprise you!

Whole-Body Vibration

By far the most popular new addition to the passive exercise category is whole-body vibration or WBV -- also known as "Power Plate" exercise. An outgrowth of a program used to train Russian cosmonauts, it quickly spread through Europe and Japan, then hit U.S. shores -- with whole centers now devoted to this workout.

How It Works: According to physical therapist and personal trainer Ben Quist, DPT, most people stand on the platform with knees bent at about a 30-degree angle, while the surface beneath their feet vibrates an astounding 30 times per second.