Whole-body vibration (WBV) is a new exercise method, with good acceptance among sedentary subjects. The metabolic response to WBV has not been well documented. Three groups of male subjects, inactive (SED), endurance (END) and strength trained (SPRINT) underwent a session of side-alternating WBV composed of three 3-min exercises (isometric half-squat, dynamic squat, dynamic squat with added load), and repeated at three frequencies (20, 26 and 32 Hz). VO(2), heart rate and Borg scale were monitored. Twenty-seven healthy young subjects (10 SED, 8 SPRINT and 9 END) were included. When expressed in % of their maximal value recorded in a treadmill test, both the peak oxygen consumption (VO(2)) and heart rate (HR) attained during WBV were greatest in the SED, compared to the other two groups (VO(2): 59.3 % in SED vs 50.8 % in SPRINT and 48.0 % in END, p<0.01; HR 82.7 % in SED vs 80.4 % in SPRINT and 72.4 % in END, p<0.05). In conclusions, the heart rate and metabolic response to WBV differs according to fitness level and type, exercise type and vibration frequency. In SED, WBV can elicit sufficient cardiovascular response to benefit overall fitness and thus be a potentially useful modality for the reduction of cardiovascular risk.