Whole body vibration training (WBVT) provides significant improvements in functional capacity in severe COPD patients, without changes in muscular force, according to findings reported in the journal Respirology.

For the randomized controlled trial, 60 stable male COPD patients either received no intervention (control group) or received 3 WBVT sessions per week for a total of 6 weeks.

The WBVT patients performed a series of static squats on the vibration platform, in addition to a 10-minute warm up and 10 minutes of stretching exercises. The platform is designed to generate vertical sinusoidal vibrations, which stimulate muscle spindles and produce muscular contractions, according to the authors.

While knee flexor and extensor strength did not improve in patients at the end of the study, those who took part in WBVT showed a significantly greater improvement in the 6-MWT than patients in the control group. The group also showed a significant decrease in maximum oxygen desaturation during the 6-MWT, which fell from 90.5% to 88.0%. By contrast, oxygen desaturation did not change in the control group.

According to the authors, the change in 6-MWT distance of 80.2 m well exceeds the 35 m change considered clinically relevant. They suggest the change may be due to adjustments in the cardiovascular system, after observing that heart rate significantly increased and oxygen saturation significantly decreased during WBVT sessions.