Good vibrations

With visions of the lycra clad enthusiasts who have just hauled themselves across the Alps in the Tour de France still fresh in our minds and the inspiration of sausage-thighed exponents whizzing around the Olympic velodrome still to come it is small wonder that many of us are contemplating taking up the thrills of biking. It does not have to involve wearing clothing that makes you look like an enlarged, eager, and heavily sponsored sperm. It might just be gentle pedals down country lanes toward peaceful pastures that take your fancy. Whatever form of cycling you take up however, a new study has found that there is some information that you should be aware of; especially if you are a woman.

For the study researchers from Yale University School of Medicine evaluated how a bicycle was set up to see how it might affect female riders. They measured pressure generated from the seat, correlated that with handlebar height, and measured pressure and sensation in the genital region.

The results showed placing the handlebar lower than the seat is associated with increased pressure on the genitals that if repeated regularly would damage nerves in the area and reduce the ability to detect vibration. The researchers say that this could potentially lead to sexual dysfunction.

Of course, healthy sexual function is the result and accumulation of a variety of factors. This study is not an excuse for lazy men to say, “Well, if you’d just raise your handlebars a bit, then maybe…” nor is it to say that simply changing your handlebars to a higher position so that you sit more upright will revolutionise your sex life. What it does do is suggest something to be aware of if you want to be an easy rider and it certainly throws a whole new light on mountain biking.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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Good vibrations

As you get older you are likely to lose bone density. The rate of that bone less will differ from person to person and in some it will result in osteoporosis. The news is that giving your body a daily dose of good vibrations might keep some of the density in your ageing bones.

Using vibrations to treat the body is sometimes said to have begun with the Soviet space program but vibrational medicine goes back to at least the 19th century and possibly earlier. In the 1880s Dr John Harvey Kellogg began using vibrating chairs and platforms to treat patients in his sanitarium. It was the Soviets however who really got into vibrational medicine.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Soviets and the Americans were locked in a space race. What both countries were finding however was that time in space without the effects of gravity was having significant impacts on the cosmonauts and astronauts. They were experiencing, for example, significant muscle wasting and loss of bone density. To counteract this the Soviets investigated and used vibrational training to build up muscle strength and bone density in their cosmonauts prior to missions.

Today, vibrational platforms are used in rehabilitation clinics and even gyms. Yet are the vibrations that the body is subjected to really doing anything to increase bone density?

This was tested in a new study done on mice who were given 30 minutes every day of whole body vibration (WBV) therapy over a twelve week period. The mice were eighteen months old which translates to around 60 human years.

After the twelve weeks the mice showed improved density around the hip joint and in the femur. Blood tests also showed reduced activity of cells called osteoclasts which are known to dig up bone. At the same time the activity of osteoblasts, cells that lay down new bone, was increasing.

The theory, but it is only theory, is that the movement causes the nucleus of cells to swing. The nucleus is suspended in the cell by fibres called filaments. Those fibres get bent of shape and when they spring back there is the release of chemicals called transcription factors causing more osteobalsts to be made.

It was also noted by the researchers that vibration can promote better and faster fracture healing. This is probably due to the action of osteoblasts but also due to stem cells being encouraged to differentiate into bone cells by the regular vibration exposure.

That’s the theory at the micro level.

At the macro level we understand that any time you fatigue the body or expose it to light stress on a regular basis then the body will reprogram itself, or adapt, to the new level of demand. The vibrational therapy is a kind of light stress that the body adapts to with stronger bones.

The vibration felt in WBV is often described as being of a similar intensity to that of the vibrate mode on your mobile phone. The difference being that in WBV you are usually standing or exercising on a platform that is doing the vibrating. Standing on your mobile phone won’t make your bones more dense, but it will be gratifying if done immediately after getting your phone bill.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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