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Power Plate a new vibrating exercise machine for fast tone ups

There's a hot vibrating training machine on the market, and it's shaking up everyone from Madonna to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Power Plate promises to tone muscles, improve strength and increase flexibility with just three 15-minute workouts a week. At 20 to 50 vibrations a second, it shakes up the entire body, causing all those muscles to contract at lightning speed. Spending 15 minutes on the Power Plate is, according to the manufacturer, like working out for an hour at the gym without all that sweat and strain on joints.

The $10,000 Power Plate is nothing like the vibrating belts that were trendy in the 1960s. This modern-day device is used mostly by athletes, who say it improves speed, balance and coordination. The rich and famous have also given it a whirl, and some fitness buffs have found a place for the 300-pound Power Plate in their homes.

Here are the facts about the Power Plate:

Power Plate uses whole body vibrations to improve muscles' strength and tone and bone density. The benefits are supported by scientific data showing immediate improvement in blood circulation, according to the manufacturer. Other measurable outcomes include increased bone density, reduced pain and faster recovery from injury. The makers of the Power Plate say it also accelerates fat loss, decreases pain, improves joint function, builds muscle tone, reduces stress, increases circulation, enhances immune functions and increases metabolism. Other perks include anti-aging benefits such as improving hormone levels and enhancing collagen production.

Kay Smith, a Pilates instructor who owns the device, calls it the "ultimate anti-age machine" because it builds bone density as well as increases flexibility, strength and muscle tone. She saw measurable results after about eight months. It also helps heal sports injuries faster, increases circulation and reduces pain. Best of all, users don't walk away from a workout feeling exhausted.

The device should not replace your cardiovascular fitness program, said Jennifer Campbell, an exercise physiologist. It may be great to add variety to your routine or to challenge different muscles but don't trade in your treadmill. Its main purpose is core training or strength enhancement. You still need an aerobic program.

The Power Plate creates vibrations that cause instability throughout the body. The body then stabilizes itself, unconsciously, using the muscular system. This constant muscle action is what makes training effective. Users typically spend 10 to 15 minutes doing squats, lunges and other moves. As the device vibrates, muscles contract and you can feel the tingle up your legs, spine and neck.

In the 1960s, Soviet cosmonauts used similar technology to combat bone and muscle degeneration caused by zero gravity. In 1999, a Dutch Olympic trainer introduced the technology, resulting in the development of the Power Plate. It became available in the United States in 2000, but only through direct sales or a Web site.

Madonna, Clint Eastwood and Sean "Diddy" Combs reportedly use it. And athletic teams are using it, including the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Cubs and Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Casey Smith, head athletic trainer for the Mavericks, said some players use it for warming up and after soft-tissue injuries.

Dina Cominos said her arms looked more toned after three times on the device. "It helps you get in shape quicker and easier," she said. "You get off of it and your muscles quiver just like when you work out hard." After 10 times, she said the results were impressive. "It's the best thing I've done for myself in a long time."

Smith says the proof is in her bone density, which increased by 3.5 percent. In a 24-week study by Power Plate of 90 post-menopausal women, the subjects increased their strength by as much as 16 percent in the upper leg muscles. Bone density at the hip increased 1.5 percent. The group also showed an improvement in postural control and balance. A weight-training group had no significant improvement.

Skip it if you are pregnant, have cardiovascular disease, recent wounds from an operation, an acute hernia, severe diabetes, epilepsy, severe migraines, pacemakers, tumors or retinal problems.

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