Vasper: A revolution in exercise technology or just another form of interval training?
by David Bunnell
This past week my colleague Shirley Gines (pictured above) and I visited the Mountain View office of Vasper Fitness and Performance Systems to test their high-tech exercise machine. Reportedly, it provides the equivalent of a two-hour workout in only 20 minutes.
And you don’t sweat!
Even more compelling, exercising on a Vasper has been shown to increase the body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH). This has many benefits including increased muscle mass and bone density, decreased body fat, improved sleep, increased focus and clarity of mind, faster recovery from exercise or physical injuries, and increased exercise capacity.
Whether higher levels of HGH actually make you younger or not is debatable but who cares if it gives you more energy and makes you feel younger.
If you can increase your HGH levels naturally without the fuss of expensive, daily injections that may come with some alarming side-effects (see Mayo Clinic article) then Vasper is a potential winner for anyone who wants to live a longer, healthier life.
Just getting to the Vasper office is quite an adventure as it is located at Moffitt Field NASA Ames Research Center under the shadow of one of the world’s largest free standing buildings–Hangar One, a massive blimp hangar built during the Depression.
From highway 101 you have to drive through a military checkpoint, where you simply tell the nice marine that you are visiting Vasper and show him your California driver’s license. You then follow a windy road towards Hangar One past some vacant military buildings and an immaculately mowed parade ground to a group of trailer-like structures.
One of these is building 566, the Vasper office/combination gymnasium.
(The reason Vasper is at this peculiar location is because they have a research contract with NASA to see if their exercise technology might be useful for astronauts whose bodies tend to atrophy in space.)
Sedate on the outside, Vasper is buzzing with activity on the inside. There is a reception desk where you sign in and four Vasper stations where people are madly peddling away, each attended by an assistant monitoring their every stroke.
Meet the founder
After checking in, Shirley and I ask the attendant if we can interview Vasper’s founder, Peter Wasowski, before we go through the workout. Peter is busy but he’s intrigued by the name of this blog (“Death is Obsolete”) so he asks us to follow him to his lab, an identical building next door.
An energetic 64-year-old professorial man with intense, sparkling eyes, Peter impresses me as a nerd who has never quite grown up. He excitedly expounds on the theories behind the Vasper system while referring to some charts on the wall of his laboratory.
Pointing to a graphic of children at play, he says, “Whenever you see kids running around there are huge amounts of lactic acid accumulating in their bodies–and the more lactic acid the stronger the feedback to the pituitary gland to release more growth hormone.”
“At puberty,” he continues, “when the body reaches closer to adult size, your muscles are bigger, and so you are no longer able to concentrate lactic acid. Every 10 years after puberty humans lose 14% of their production of growth hormone.”
Looking at the chart below, Shirley comments, “Oh my god, I’ve lost nearly half of my growth hormone levels!”
“Less growth hormone is the main reason,” Peter points out, “that older people take longer to recover from injuries.”
He goes on to explain there are three core ideas behind the Vasper technology:
- Compression. Cuffs, similar to the ones used when measuring blood pressure, are applied to upper thighs and biceps to trap the lactic acid that is produced when you exercise. This “fools the brain into thinking you have destroyed muscle tissue when in fact you have not.”
- Core body cooling. A vest is wrapped around the chest which is filled with a cold liquid. The same liquid is also pumped into the cuffs and into a special helmet on your head. This keeps your body from sweating, thereby preventing the loss of oxygen that would otherwise occur as your blood temperature goes up. And since oxygen is the fuel for the muscles, this makes your exercise more efficient.
- Grounding. Peter tells us that “arthritis took off in the Western world in the mid-1950’s when polymers were invented.” The theory is that because of synthetic clothing, nylon carpets, rubber soles, etc., people started picking up a lot of static electricity and they “had no way to off-load it.” He says static electricity is an “inflammatory energy” and that if you go to India where 800 million people wear cotton clothes and are barefoot you will see very little arthritis. For this reason when you exercise on a Vasper machine you do it barefoot and your feet rest on a grounded copper plate.
Now that we have some understanding of the concept, it is time for us to test it out ourselves, so we head back to the other building.
“Beam me up, Scotty!”
Once seated on one of the Vasper exercise machines, a technician straps a blue vest around your chest, followed by the four cuffs around both thighs and upper arms. Each of these has tubes running out of them attached to a control unit. A cold liquid is pumped through tubes which provide compression (arms and legs) and simultaneously cools you body. As it was a warm day, I found that this felt really refreshing.
Next, you place your bare feet on the copper pedals for the grounding effect. The pedals are cold as well. A liquid cooled helmet is then place on your head and you are ready to rock and rolls. (See video below.)
The exercise itself is a form of interval training.
After nine minutes of moderately pumping your arms and legs, the technician tells you to pump as fast as you can for 90 seconds. This followed by 90 seconds of slow pedaling, then 30 seconds as hard as you can, etc. There is a total of six high-intensity periods.
I found the Vasper did provide a good workout. While I didn’t sweat or get winded, I could feel a definite burn in my thighs and upper arms.
For the rest of the day my endorphins were kicking in like crazy and I did get a really good sleep that night. To find out whether or not my pituitary was pumping out more hormones would require a blood or saliva test which wasn’t available. But I felt great.
Interval training isn’t new but recently it has been shown to boost the levels of HGH as wells as anabolic hormones such as testosterone, DHEAS and IGF1. It may also help normalize the level of the stress hormone cortisol.
And interval training is an effective way of inducing fat loss and improving aerobic capacity. Hell, yeah!
I’ve been practicing a form of interval training for two years and swear by it. I’m totally addicted to it, so much so I find it hard to do the other forms of exercise that used to be part of my routine.
The question I have about Vasper is the body cooling, compression and grounding really necessary? Wouldn’t I get the same benefit, or close to the same benefit from simply following the Vasper routine on a regular exercise bike?
The advantages of sweating
Not sweating is nice, but there a benefit to sweating which includes healthier skin and detoxification. If you need to exercise over the lunch hour then Vasper or a similar system would be great because who has time to take a shower. Otherwise the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned.
Peter Wasowski likes to point out that only 5% of adult Americans exercise on a regular basis. The reason he believes is “because it is painful because exercise damages the muscles.” Vasper solves this problem because it “fools the brain into thinking the muscles are damaged, so you get all the benefit minus the pain.”
I think inertia and the fact exercise takes too much time out of our busy days are the real reasons people don’t exercise. Interval training with or without Vasper saves time and I always feel great after it, I never feel any pain. I haven’t really felt pain from exercise since my high school cross-country coach made us run up the stadium steps over and over again until we dropped from exhaustion.
So who’s right about this and does it matter?
If you are interested in learning more about plain vanilla interval training, I suggest you read the article and see the videos at “Flood Your Body with this ‘Youth Hormone’ in just 20 Minutes” from Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.
If you happen to live in or near Mountain View or work at the nearby GOOGLE headquarters, you can sign up for Vasper at their website (vasper.com) for only $35 a session.
It is worth it just to get a close-up view of Hangar One.