Trampolines aren’t just for kids. The repetitive bouncing motion of trampolining actually has many health benefits that make it appropriate for people of all ages and almost all health statuses.
The trick to getting the most out of a trampoline is choosing – and using – a trampoline that’s most appropriate for your needs and living situation. Consider the health benefits of trampolining as well as your goals, budget, and space to find (and get inspired to use) the right one.
Trampolining for Health
1. Lower-Impact Cardiovascular Fitness
When you jump on a trampoline, the flexible surface moves with you as you land, reducing the impact of landing. So, unlike other forms of cardiovascular fitness such as jogging – where the impact of making contact with the ground can lead to bone and joint injuries of the ankles, knees, and hips – trampolining is less likely to generate these types of impact-based injuries. All the while, the jumping motion still enables you to increase your heart rate and breath rate, thereby improving your cardiovascular fitness when performed regularly at a moderate to vigorous intensity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends American adults receive a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise to promote cardiovascular health.
2. Improved Lymphatic Function
One of the greatest benefits of trampolining is the benefit it offers to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system plays an important role in immunity, bathing cells throughout the body in lymph fluid to collect cellular waste and move it toward the appropriate waste removal system, whether the skin, lungs, liver, or kidneys. The lymphatic system runs vertically along the extremities, but unlike the cardiovascular system (which runs in a similar fashion, with the heart constantly pumping to keep blood moving through the system), the lymphatic system has no pump to keep lymphatic fluid and waste products moving.
Rather, the system requires muscular contraction to move waste up the system and away from the extremities. Exercise of almost any kind can help generate this movement, but the up-and-down bouncing of trampolining is particularly effective because it’s relatively easy to perform and stimulates the lymph system’s one-way valves to open and close simultaneously, increasing lymph flow substantially as it works against gravity to move up the lymphatic system. This keeps waste products moving, clearing the body of toxins, and improving overall immune function.
3. Improved Balance and Coordination
Many people struggle to maintain balance the first few times they jump on a trampoline; however, trampolines are actually quite good for improving balance and coordination across all demographics. Think of a trampoline a bit like the old computer game, “Pong.” The ball in “Pong” bounces back and forth between two paddles, but the ball moves at different angles based on the speed and location of each paddle as it connects with the paddle.
When you jump on a trampoline, your body’s a bit like the ball in “Pong” – based on the angle and the force with which you hit the trampoline’s surface, your body rebounds up into the air at a different angle. Sometimes you end up rebounding in an unexpected manner because you land with greater force than anticipated; other times you might land before the trampoline’s surface has finished settling; or, you may even accidentally place more weight on one foot than the other. To accommodate these unexpected movements, your body must find its center of gravity and “re-balance” before landing again. With practice, you become better at maintaining your equilibrium despite unexpected movement patterns, and also more adept at predicting your body’s movements based on how you land, enabling you to recover faster. In essence, your balance and coordination improve.
Separate studies have proven that balance is improved in almost every demographic when trampolines are used regularly. For instance, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology found that when elderly individuals used mini trampolines for 14 weeks, their balance improved and they were less likely to experience a forward fall. And in another 2013 study published in Research in Developmental Disabilities, researchers found that children who engaged in a 12-week exercise intervention with mini trampolines saw marked improvement in motor function and balance at the end of the study.
4. Fun Form of Exercise
Trampolining is fun, and there are few people who would argue otherwise. There’s something about the feeling of flying that’s invigorating and rewarding, and anytime you can engage in exercise that’s fun, the more likely you are to stick with it.
Additionally, a 2014 study released by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found that individuals who viewed physical activity as exercise were more likely to eat more afterwards and be more fatigued and less satisfied with their workout. On the other hand, those who viewed physical activity as a fun pastime ate less following their activity and were more likely to view the experience as enjoyable.
Granted, Cornell’s study was a study with controlled variables, but the results are significant. If you can change your attitude about physical activity and what it means, the more likely you are to make positive decisions about food.
Choosing a Trampoline
Trampolines may all seem more or less the same, but there are differences you should be aware of before you make a purchase. Generally speaking, price and size are going to be your two biggest determining factors when selecting a piece of equipment, but it’s important to understand your options.
Mini trampolines, also commonly termed “rebounders,” are the smaller, fitness-focused trampolines that can be easily used and stored inside your house. Some mini trampolines are foldable, some come with a detachable bar for added stability, and some vary in size (typically 36 to 49 inches in diameter) or spring-type (coiled springs vs. bungee-style, “springless” versions). These trampolines vary in price from about $30 all the way up to just under $1,000 for a 49-inch diameter high-end Bellicon mini trampoline with all the bells and whistles.
The good news is, most people don’t need to spend $1,000 to get what they need. You can pick up a name brand Urban Rebounder from Amazon for $130 that includes a workout DVD and a detachable balance bar for stabilization, or you can grab a highly-rated JumpSport 40-inch trampoline for $230, which also includes a workout DVD.
When choosing a mini trampoline, you want to think about the weight capacity of the equipment (it needs to be able to support your weight), the size of the jumping surface (a larger surface provides greater flexibility for the types of exercises you can perform, such as side-to-side hopping, jumping jacks, jogging in place, or simple bouncing), and your personal needs. For instance, if you want to be able to store the trampoline under your bed, you need it to be able to fold up. Or, if you want to store it in a particular spot, you want to be sure you choose a trampoline that fits in the area.
Overall, mini trampolines are best for individuals who plan to exercise inside, in a confined area, and don’t require a surface large enough to perform tricks or acrobatics. They’re easy to set up and take apart (if needed), and they’re good for individuals who want to be able to transport the equipment easily from one place to another.
Full-sized trampolines, typically considered backyard recreational trampolines, offer a larger jumping area that lends itself to greater movement flexibility. For instance, you can perform “seat drops” (where you jump up into the air, then extend your legs in front of you so you land on the trampoline in a seated position, then return to standing on the next bounce) because of the greater trampoline surface area.
Full-sized trampolines typically come in a circular shape, and range in size from about 8 to 16 feet in diameter. Like mini trampolines, full-sized trampolines vary in price based on size, brand, and spring-type. You can expect to pay anywhere from $350 to $2,000 for a trampoline of this type. They’re most appropriate for individuals who want a greater jumping surface for more exercise variability, and for those who have the room in the backyard to assemble one. There are safety concerns to consider for larger trampolines – namely, because they’re suspended off the ground by about three to four feet, it’s not uncommon for users to accidentally jump off the side of the trampoline (this is particularly true of children).
If you’re considering a full-sized trampoline, it’s a good idea to consider an investment in an enclosure to help ensure you don’t bounce off the edge. Enclosures wrap the jumping surface in a mesh surround so if you hit the guard, you’ll be kept from falling off. These typically cost about $150, depending on the size of your trampoline.
One other factor to consider is the setup and transport of larger trampolines. Many big box stores, including sports retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and general retailers like Walmart, sell trampolines in-store that you can pick up in a box, strap to your car, and take home. Once home, you’re taxed with setting up the product yourself. According to reviews of a 12-foot Jump Zone trampoline from Academy, the trampoline takes about two hours for two adults to put together. You can expect a similar assembly time for most round trampolines of a similar size.
To skip the transport problem, you can always order a trampoline online and have it delivered. Amazon and big box retailers often offer free shipping due to the expense of the trampoline itself.
Gym-Style or Professional Trampoline
When you go to a trampoline gym (such as Sky Zone) or to a gymnastics gym for training, you’re most likely to use a rectangular-shaped trampoline. While rectangular trampolines are available for home use, they’re less common. This is in part because the springs of a rectangular trampoline all act in the same direction (there’s no angular cross-pull like you experience on a circular trampoline), so the rebound is enhanced, enabling a user to jump higher. They’re also made of a heavier steel, which makes them more cumbersome to move around.
This type of professional trampoline is most appropriate for those who are training for a specific sport, such as gymnastics, cheerleading, or diving, and who need the enhanced bounce made possible by the rectangular-shaped frame. Just expect to spend more for these models. JumpSport‘s rectangular trampolines start at $1,600 and go up to $2,800, including the safety enclosures.
Exercising on a Trampoline
Much like walking, trampolining can be adjusted to practically any ability level. Those new to exercise can start on a mini trampoline with a simple, zero-hop bounce, where the user’s feet never even leave the surface of the trampoline. On the other hand, those who are hardcore exercisers can put themselves through the paces by cycling through tuck jumps, high knees, jumping jacks, 180-degree jumps, and more.
Generally speaking, jogging on a mini trampoline feels easier and less strenuous than jogging on a treadmill, and hopping on a mini trampoline feels even easier than jogging on a trampoline. According to SparkPeople, a 150-pound person can expect to burn about 37 calories in 10 minutes of trampoline jumping compared to about 88 calories in 10 minutes of jogging at a 12-mile per hour pace. Of course you can burn more calories by jumping more vigorously on a trampoline, but the point is, at similar levels of concerted effort, you won’t actually work as hard when jumping on a trampoline.
If you’re looking for a fun and effective way to fit exercise into your life, trampolining just might be it. If you don’t currently have the budget to buy a trampoline, check out your local gyms to see if they have trampoline classes available. Many large gyms offer group fitness classes that incorporate rebounders, while trampoline-specific gyms are popping up around the country, offering the general public a way to take advantage of full-sized professional trampolines for the cost of a day pass (typically $10 to $20).
When was the last time you jumped on a trampoline? Have you considered adding one to your workout routine?