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Regular exercise benefits musculoskeletal, cardio-metabolic and cognitive health. However, many adults do not meet the minimum amount of recommended exercise per week. Whole-Body EMS (WB-EMS) training may be a promising alternative for adults who lack motivation, time or are unable to exercise conventionally. The following research completed by Kemmler and colleagues in 2018 systematically reviewed the effect of WB-EMS on health-related outcomes in non-athletic adults.
The primary aim of this review was to assess the effects, limitations and risks of WB-EMS as a preventative or therapeutic tool for non-athletic adults. A total of 23 studies were summarized and the effect of WB-EMS on musculoskeletal risk factors, functional capacity and cardiometabolic risk factors was analyzed.
All but one study found significant improvements in muscle mass independent of age, gender and training status. This means that WB-EMS increased muscle mass in both males and females, young and old, fit and unfit individuals. Furthermore, it was found that lower back pain improved significantly with WB-EMS compared to non-training groups.
Functional capacity including walking speed and grip strength also improved significantly with WB-EMS. This is important as these improvements translate into benefits in activities of daily living which enhances the quality of life, particularly in older or overweight clients.
Significant improvements were found in body composition particularly in the abdominal region. Some improvements were noted in mean arterial pressure and waist circumference with no changes in triglycerides, glucose or cholesterol levels, however, these factors are largely influenced by nutrition.
No adverse or negative effects were noted across all WB-EMS studies and the authors concluded that “Properly applied and guided WB-EMS application according to the present guidelines is a safe training technology for unfit and physically limited subjects with low time budgets.