May 2017 Issue
Focus on Fitness: Trampoline Workouts
By Jennifer Van Pelt, MA
Vol. 19, No. 5, P. 50
In my neighborhood, I often see kids bouncing on backyard trampolines. Two indoor trampoline parks also have recently opened nearby, and both offer group fitness classes and personal training workouts. Mini trampolines, also called rebounders, considered a fad in the late 1970s and early 1980s, are now experiencing a resurgence in the fitness industry. Mini trampoline workouts such as CardioBOUNCE and Urban Rebounding are available for home and gym exercise. Some gyms and boutique fitness studios also may offer rebounding group fitness classes.
Trampolines are of high interest to wellness professionals and consumers right now for their potential fitness value and for safety reasons. Bouncing on a trampoline can be a great workout with several benefits, but it also carries some risks.
Benefits of Bouncing
Bouncing on a trampoline is a great cardiovascular workout that provides all the benefits of vigorous exercise, but with substantially decreased stress on joints. Pounding the pavement while running and jumping on hardwood floors during aerobics classes and rope-jumping are high-impact exercises that increase the likelihood of injury and joint wear and tear over time. The same high-impact movements can be performed on a trampoline for an equivalent or more intense workout without impact. Running, jumping jacks, jumping rope (without the rope), high knee lifts, and other movements can be done faster and longer on a trampoline than on a hard surface, since force and resistance are different on a trampoline. Muscular pain associated with high-impact workouts also may be diminished when the same exercises are performed on a trampoline.
Are the benefits of bouncing supported by data? Most of the studies on trampolining were conducted in the late 1970s and 1980s, when interest in rebounding for training pilots, astronauts, and athletes was high. The studies focused on measuring joint stress, gravitational forces, and biomechanics compared with treadmill running. A 1980 NASA study is considered the most influential study on the benefits of trampoline workouts, even though it was small (eight healthy men); it was designed to specifically evaluate the benefits of trampoline jumping vs treadmill running for training pilots and astronauts to avoid deconditioning associated with weightlessness.1 Key findings include the following:
• For a similar amount of oxygen used and energy expended, more work can be done by the body when jumping on a trampoline due to its biomechanical efficiency compared with treadmill running.
• Oxygen consumption when jumping was more than twice as efficient as treadmill running.
• The gravitational forces on the body when trampoline jumping were significantly less than running.
Other early research found that joint impact during rebounding was more than 85% less than that of running on a treadmill, balance improved significantly after adding rebounding to an exercise program, and strength improved by 25% over standard circuit weight training when rebounding was added to the circuit. These studies were reported at conferences and not published but were noted in early books on the benefits of trampoline exercise—Jump for Joy by James R. White, PhD (1981), and The New Miracles of Rebound Exercise by Albert E. Carter (1988).
More recent studies have focused on use of a mini trampoline to address special needs, such as modified workouts for stroke rehabilitation2 and children with intellectual disabilities,3 as well as for weight loss in diabetes4 and obesity.5 All studies demonstrated physical and mental (engagement) benefits.
Mini trampoline suppliers and wellness websites tout numerous other advantages associated with rebounding, but many haven't been proven scientifically, or they're supported only by anecdotal evidence. Fitness benefits, such as improved coordination, core strength, posture, pain relief, mental clarity, blood cholesterol levels, and sleep, don't necessarily require scientific study—these are benefits associated with any regular safe exercise program. The most common benefits advertised in association with rebounding are improved lymphatic circulation and immune function. Numerous consumer and medical patient testimonials can be found online, describing improvements in autoimmune-related symptoms and recovery from pain and illness. Lymphatic massage and certain exercises have been shown to decrease lymphedema following breast cancer, so there's some evidence for lymphatic circulation affecting health. Lymph fluid flows via one-way valves; however, unlike the cardiovascular system, there's no organ that pumps the fluid. Lymphatic fluid flow is induced by flexing and relaxing muscles, changes in atmospheric pressure, and changes in gravitational pull. Physiologic studies have shown that vigorous muscular exercise does increase lymphatic circulation as much as 10 to 15 times over a resting state. Based on the NASA study about gravitational force during trampolining, it's been theorized that vertical jumping more effectively increases lymphatic circulation compared with exercises like running and cycling. Because the lymphatic system plays a role in removing waste products from the body and immune processes for fighting disease, improving its circulation is thought to provide immune-related benefits. However, it's unclear whether bouncing on a trampoline is any more beneficial than other forms of vigorous exercise in terms of lymphatic circulation.
Using a mini trampoline to exercise is relatively safe, provided it's used appropriately. Minor risks include falling off the trampoline and trampoline breakage. To minimize risk of falling, stabilizing handlebars are available with some mini trampolines for support for those who have balance issues. Purchasing a mini trampoline that's well constructed and has a weight limit well above the weight of the user can prevent breakage. In general, mini trampolines are durable compared with other home exercise equipment.
Large backyard trampolines and indoor trampoline parks, however, carry a much higher risk of injury. A recently published study on trampoline park and home trampoline injuries in children found an increasing prevalence of hospital visits for trampoline park injuries; though home trampoline injuries didn't increase over the four years of the study, they still occurred frequently. Injuries ranged from dislocations, sprains, and fractures to more severe head and spinal cord injuries. Causes included falls, contact with other jumpers, and jumping with flips.6 While fitness classes at trampoline parks likely are safe since exercise is supervised by a qualified instructor, unsupervised jumping is risky, especially when the facility is crowded with jumpers of all sizes and abilities. Trampoline play is a fun way to get kids to exercise, but all activity should be supervised, and risky movements should be avoided. If your clients have a backyard trampoline, suggest they join their kids on the trampoline, bouncing in place to supervise play and getting a workout while monitoring for safety.
Mini trampolines are available from any sporting goods supplier, stores such as Target and Walmart, and online vendors like Amazon. For clients interested in bouncing as exercise, a mini trampoline is the safest and easiest way to start. Mini trampolines are portable and easily incorporated into a home exercise space and program. DVD and online workouts can be found on YouTube.com, Cardiobouncefitness.com, and Urbanrebounding.com. The bottom line on bouncing compared with other exercises? It's fun (who doesn't like to bounce?) and easy on the joints!
— Jennifer Van Pelt, MA, is a certified group fitness instructor and health care researcher in the Reading, Pennsylvania, area.
1. Bhattacharya A, McCutcheon EP, Shvartz E, Greenleaf JE. Body acceleration distribution and O2 uptake in humans during running and jumping. J Appl Physiol Respir Environ Exerc Physiol. 1980;49(5):881-887.
2. Hahn J, Shin S, Lee W. The effect of modified trampoline training on balance, gait, and falls efficacy of stroke patients. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(11):3351-3354.
3. Giagazoglou P, Kokaridas D, Sidiropoulou M, Patsiaouras A, Karra C, Neofotistou K. Effects of a trampoline exercise intervention on motor performance and balance ability of children with intellectual disabilities. Res Dev Disabil. 2013;34(9):2701-2707.
4. Nuhu JM, Maharaj SS. Influence of a mini trampoline rebound exercise program on insulin resistance, lipid profile and central obesity in individuals with type 2 diabetes [published online March 1, 2017]. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. doi: 10.2376/S0022-4707.17.07120-1.
5. Cugusi L, Manca A, Serpe R, et al. Effects of a mini-trampoline rebounding exercise program on functional parameters, body composition and quality of life in overweight women [published online July 21, 2016]. J Sports Med Phys Fitness.
6. Kasmire KE, Rogers SC, Sturm JJ. Trampoline park and home trampoline injuries. Pediatrics. 2016;138(3):e20161236.