With more science coming into the world of exercise, and consumers tuning into the importance of lifestyle and health choices, savvy spa operators should make sure their fitness offering is up to date.
One of the latest pieces of cutting-edge equipment that’s grabbing the attention of NASA and Olympic athletes is Vasper – the name stands for vascular performance – which uses cooling and compression systems to accelerate the activation of fast twitch muscles, placing them in an anaerobic state without the normal wear and tear associated with a longer workout.
But it’s not just for astronauts and elite sportspeople. Vasper has been created to optimise the health of any user at any level of fitness. So just how does it do this?
How it works
Designed by Peter Wasowski, an entrepreneur from Hawaii, the Vasper workout consists of a 20-minute intensive interval fitness programme, tailored to people’s abilities, on a recumbent bike. Sounds normal so far... but there are two hi-tech features that make all the difference.
l Compression. Patented Vasper technology includes compression cuffs filled with cool liquid. According to Wasowski: “The cuffs place gentle pressure on the muscles of the upper arms and thighs to activate the fast twitch muscles and place them in an anaerobic state which, in turn, increases lactic acid. The build-up of lactic acid pushes the brain into a rebuild and recovery state, so it cranks up the production of anabolic hormones such as human growth hormones (hGH) and testosterone.”
These extra biochemicals help build muscle tissue ,as well as being responsible for other benefits associated with intense anaerobic exercise, such as fat loss, increased muscle growth, restful sleep, greater energy and an enhanced sense of wellbeing.
l Core body cooling. As well as the cuffs, the Vasper system includes a cooling vest, copper footplates and helmet. These are filled with chilled liquid to keep the body’s core temperature lower during exercise. Clients can push themselves a lot harder without sweating. It also means that fatigue is less likely to set in – as it does when the body’s temperature rises – and strength, endurance and cognitive functions don’t deteriorate as rapidly, if at all.
After the exercise, users rest for 10 minutes on a liquid-cooled mat to flush out lactic acid, lessen fatigue and further maximise the benefits of the workout.
Wasowski says the Vasper system has “been designed to reproduce the effect of a high-intensity anaerobic training session, but with less effort and physical damage.”
He adds: “Anaerobic exercise is traditionally only possible through heavy weightlifting or high-intensity interval training, which many people either can’t perform or don’t want to.”
Other media claim that the 20-minute programme gives the benefit of a two-hour workout, but Wasowski will not confirm this. What he does say is that: “Vasper provides easier access to these anaerobic benefits to anyone, regardless of their physical ability or age.”
He adds that the system should be used to complement existing workouts rather than replacing them.
Uptake to date
For the moment, members of the public can only try Vasper at its offices in Silicon Valley, California and Hawaii, USA. Prices for a 30-minute session start at US$35 (€26, £21), but a number of different packages and memberships are available. Once funding has been raised, the idea is to roll out the system to rehabilitation centres and corporate clients.
The company’s corporate clients include Google, which installed Vasper at its California headquarters in May. It’s also being trialled by number of athletes who’ve written testimonials on the Vasper website.
Patrick Marleau, the star of the San Jose Sharks ice hockey team, says: “Within 20 minutes of my first use, I had the endorphin rush that you usually only achieve after a much longer workout. It helps with my recoveries after strenuous workouts… When I do Vasper before my workouts, I have some of the best workouts. I can maybe compare it to a runner’s high.”
Another advocate is US Olympic triple jumper Erica Ashley McLain (pictured), who used Vasper after a serious injury. She says: “I was told I’d never run again. A year later, I posted the top triple jump distance in the US. I feel confident that adding Vasper to my standard rehabilitation programme helped me beat the odds of my injury and helped me recover faster than any of my doctors expected.”
In 2011, Vasper also signed a three-year agreement with NASA. Astronauts have to exercise for a least four hours a day in space to prevent muscle and bone loss, and NASA is interested in seeing how Vasper might reduce these workout time.
Dr Jeffrey Smith at the NASA Ames Research Center told CBS San Francisco: “We’re not here to endorse them [Vasper], but we want to understand what they’re doing, how it’s scientifically possible, and what the potential of this technology might be for NASA.”