Tamaki Pan always considered herself healthy. She was thin and did Pilates and yoga. But an annual check-up a couple of years ago delivered a wake-up call: She had high cholesterol and was borderline pre-diabetes.
Pan, a print designer for an apparel company, lives in New York City and will be 50 this year. She has a family history of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
“My doctor suggested that I add cardio exercises to my life,” she says. “I hate the gym, and every time I do the treadmill or elliptical machine, I get severe knee pain.”
A friend suggested she try rebounding classes, also known as bounce, which incorporate cardio and strength exercises using mini-trampolines. Research shows jumping on a trampoline is just as beneficial as running, but without the impact on the joints.
After a few months of rebounding, Pan says her cholesterol dropped to 170, and she gained strength and energy. It’s also been a metabolism-booster and helped reduce the neck pain she experiences from sitting in front of her computer eight hours a day.
Plus, she says, it’s just fun. “I can’t dance, but with upbeat music and jumping, I can just enjoy. I don’t think anyone can be depressed while jumping,” she says.
Addressing the Fear of Falling
Falling off the trampoline was Pan’s biggest concern when she started attending classes at TrampoLEAN in New York City. But, the nature of rebounding means it’s safe for all fitness levels.
Instead of springs, the mini-trampolines used in classes have bungee cords, making them less bouncy than a traditional recreational trampoline. Rebounding also isn’t about jumping as high as you can — it focuses on centering your weight on the trampoline and staying low to the surface.
“You position your body over the trampoline and you focus on not jumping high; you focus on catching your energy,” says TrampoLEAN founder Louis Coraggio.
Even lightly bouncing or simply standing on the unstable surface of the trampoline improves balance and stability.
“You’re pushing your energy down into the mat, and your core is catching and stabilizing the energy you’re providing to the trampoline. That’s why it’s called rebounding, because it’s constantly rebounding that energy,” he says.
“If you’re very focused with your movement and you’re staying nice and low, the chances of you falling are very, very small,” Coraggio says, adding that the trampolines often have handlebars to hold on to if needed.
Classes are usually choreographed and may feature exercises like jumping jacks while bouncing, and strength training, like doing push-ups on the trampoline mat, Coraggio says. Light hand weights, resistance bands and other equipment may be added.
Trampolines can also be incorporated into other fitness disciplines, like Pilates, barre (ballet-inspired moves combined with other fitness techniques) and high intensity-interval training, says Tiziana Castiglioni, a trainer at the Bellicon Studio in Chicago and master trainer for Bellicon Academy in the U.S. and Italy. Bellicon is a brand of mini-trampolines.
“Classes vary based on the workout and intensity of bouncing,” says Castiglioni. Workouts accommodate all levels.
“You can do stability work, which requires balance, even on one leg,” Castiglioni says. “You can do strengthening using weights, bands, Pilates balls and handles. You can add coordination challenges, and in some cases, create proper dance routines. Choices are many, depending on the specific fitness objective.”
The cost of mini-trampoline classes varies by business and region. A quick survey of a few in different areas finds they average about $25 per class. But, of course, if you buy more than one class at a time, the price drops. For example, at one studio in New York City, four classes cost $80 total, and a studio in California offers them at five classes for $100.
For people interested in buying a mini-trampoline to use at home, the price varies widely depending on quality of materials and accessories. Some come with handles; others come with net walls for protection. The cost ranges from around $50 to $1,000.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Training with mini-trampolines has been around for decades. During World War II, pilots used trampolines to improve spatial awareness and balance. A NASA study found trampoline training for astronauts to be more effective than running.
The reason for rebounding’s effectiveness is the gravitational force created by the acceleration and deceleration of jumping on the trampoline. This “g-force” strengthens all parts of the body and offers endless health benefits, Coraggio says.
Even lightly bouncing or simply standing on the unstable surface of the trampoline improves balance and stability., which is important for reducing the risk of falls.
“Whether you are bouncing with a group of people or on your own, I dare you not to smile.”
“The main advantage is that working with gravity creates concentric and eccentric contraction of the deepest muscles in our body, also activating the nervous system, lymphatic system, bone health, pelvic floor alignment,” Castiglioni says. “The soft rebound of a trampoline ensures low impact on joints like ankles, knees and hips, therefore ensuring a more prolonged cardio activity.”
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that mini-trampoline rebounding exercise burned calories, improved body composition and reduced blood pressure in overweight women.
Rebounding also helps strengthen the mind-body connection, since many classes include movement sequences and choreography.
‘You Use Every Muscle’
Janet Smith, 57, says she was hesitant when she began taking classes with Castiglioni in Chicago a few years ago. She worried jumping would be too much impact on her joints, something she was told to avoid after being diagnosed with scoliosis in high school.
But, Smith says, rebounding has improved her balance and been easy on her joints.
“It makes you use every muscle,” Smith adds. She hopes strengthening muscles will stave off arthritis, which is common in her family.
“I started getting more serious about weight training and exercises that could strengthen muscle because my mother had arthritis, terrible arthritis,” she says. “I saw her deterioration, sadly, between that and she had curvature of the spine, which I also have.”
Along with the health and fitness benefits, what’s inspired her most to continue rebounding is the camaraderie and community feeling of the mini-trampoline classes.
“The music is fun; it has great energy,” she says. “So, all those things are what you want in a workout.”
On the long list of health benefits of trampoline workouts, Castiglioni underlines the social aspects. Exercise also releases serotonin in the brain, regulating mood and making us happy.
“Whether you are bouncing with a group of people or on your own, I dare you not to smile,” she says. “There is something about a trampoline that brings back all the happiness we had as kids while we were bouncing around. Now, we can do it again, as adults, knowing we are doing something good for us.”
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