It’s a midweek evening and I’m huddled in a corner with a bunch of other first-timers, eyeing the mini trampolines around us with deep concern. “This is a really fast and furious class,” our instructor warns, all rippling abs, Bambi eyelashes and lollipop Lycra. “Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re all over the place. It will take five to seven classes before you get into a rhythm so please don’t give up if you don’t enjoy it the first time.”
I’m at a bounce class at Pure Health Clubs in suburban Brisbane. I was apprehensive before, but the instructor’s ‘pep talk’ has made me terrified. Yet, as the techno music pounds, and I conquer my first round of star jumps, high kicks and twists, I get the sense that I’m five years old again, joyously leaping on a backyard trampoline.
The fun factor is perhaps why, as a fitness trend, rebounding, or trampolining, has swept the globe. Its fans including US celebrity trainer Simone De La Rue who promises to “torch calories” with her thumping Trampoline Cardio workout, Australia’s Michelle Bridges who treasures the in-ground trampoline in her backyard, and Hong Kong’s BounceLimit founder Lucia Tam.
Rebounding is an activity that suits all comers, no matter age or activity level. You can rebound in an organised class, or on your own. Either way, it involves jumping on a mini trampoline, about a ruler’s length off the floor. You can bounce so gently that your feet don’t leave the canvas, or you can jump a short distance in the air. If you’re fit, strong and super motivated, you can make like Superman and leap up and away.
THE BENEFITS OF BOUNCE
Rebounding is associated with a host of health and other benefits. According to US trainer Lauren Roxburgh, author of Taller, Slimmer, Younger, it’s not necessary to sign up for a class. Just a few minutes on a rebounder at the end of the day can boost both your health and happiness because rebounding will get you out of the business in your head and back into your body.
Weight-bearing exercise such as rebounding can also promote bone density and help prevent osteoporosis later in life. NASA has long used the benefits of bounce both to prepare astronauts for space, and to help them regain the bone and muscle mass lost in zero-gravity environments. One of the original NASA studies, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 1980, indicated that rebounding demanded more effort than running, but was gentler on the joints. This is because the trampoline’s springs or bungee bands absorb most of the impact that would otherwise be hitting your ankles or knees.
Rebound for Life’s Cate Nunan adds that the rhythmic motion of rebounding also helps to improve lymphatic flow throughout the body and enhance immune function. “The lymph system does not have a pump and lymph fluid only moves when you move,” she explains. “The up and down motion is the important element in good lymph circulation.” Other benefits that accrue with every bounce include improved cardiovascular function, increased endurance and greater flexibility due to the tensing and relaxing of muscles.
Nunan adds that rebounding also promotes good balance and posture. As I learned during the fast-paced class, maintaining a consistent rhythm is challenging and your body may move in a direction you didn’t anticipate – including up and off the back of the trampoline. (I managed to convince the instructor and those around me I was just taking a break.)
“With each bounce, your cerebellum and inner ear direct muscles to stabilise you so, without realising, you are working all muscles crucial for balance,” Nunan says. These stablising effects may be particularly beneficial for individuals as they age. For example, one recent study found that older women who engaged in a 12-week rebounding programme showed significant improvements in balance.
Roxburgh, whose new book, The Power Source, focuses upon the pelvic floor, says rebounding also strengthens those crucial muscles, which form a hammock across the base of your pelvis and support the internal organs above it. “Having strong and flexible pelvic floor muscles helps control the bladder, stabilise the hip joints and connect to the deep core,” she writes. And just in case you needed any further motivation, strengthening the pelvic floor can lead to more intense orgasms.
There are also mental health benefits associated with rebounding. Although I was clumsy, out of breath and out of step throughout most of the class, I felt energised, to the point of bullet-proof, afterwards. I was also more willing to tackle tasks which would normally leave me feeling drained. The pile of dirty dishes in the sink? Washed and dried. The overflowing laundry basket? Sorted.
According to Brisbane-based full-sized trampoline manufacturer Vuly, there are sound reasons why rebounding lifts mood. All forms of exercise trigger the release of endorphins –– those feel-good neurochemicals which are behind the legendary ‘runners’ high’. Trampolining amplifies this endorphin rush due to the added elements of excitement and weightlessness.
Rebounding’s bouncing motion also stimulates the release of adrenaline, making you feel more alert and aware of surroundings. And, just as with any other form of regular exercise, rebounding stimulates the production of serotonin, which creates a sense of happiness and well-being. If that weren’t enough, rebounding releases dopamine, which heightens pleasure, and motivates us to seek the same reward again. This is likely why keen rebounders describe their passion as “addictive”.
FINDING YOUR FEET
If, like me, you’re eager to road test rebounding by attending a class before purchasing equipment, then arrive early. Spend some time getting familiar with the feel of the rebounder under your feet, the space you have within which to work, and the effects of different moves. (I was comfortable jumping, but hopping on one leg nearly undid me.)
Learning to move on the rebounder was a bit like developing ‘sea legs’ on a ship –– there’s a period of adjustment required before the new rules of motion are second nature. It works in reverse too: towards the end of class, I had to readjust to a floor that felt strangely harsh and non-yielding.
While you’ll have a lot on your mind during that first class, Nunan also recommends fledgling rebounders remain acutely aware of their stance and posture. “Position yourself on the mat with ankles and knees aligned, with no pronation,” she says. “Keep your heels at a 90-degree angle to the floor while standing on the mat and, once you sense how that feels, commence bouncing.”
ON THE HOME STRETCH
Ready to commit to a home practice? There are a plethora of options for those who want to purchase a mini trampoline, and a wide range of price points, ranging from bargain to bust. While budget will undoubtedly play a part in your decision-making, there are a host of other factors, including the quality of the frame, and the availability of replacement parts, to consider as well.
This is also an area where size really matters. For example, brand leader bellicon offers frame diameters ranging from 100 to 125 centimetres. While it doesn’t sound like there’s much in it, the largest model provides a jumping surface almost twice as large as the smallest. That can make a big difference for tall people, or those who like a lot of space. Then again, if you’re planning to take your rebounder outside, or to travel with it, you’ll probably want the smallest and most portable models.
Also think about whether you’re willing to work with springs, or would prefer to invest in bungee band technology. According to Nunan, the latter offers a more gentle bounce that “massages” the body’s cells, joints and muscles. “The bellicon bands absorb up to 85 per cent of the impact on the spine and joints avoiding harsh, sudden impact,” she says. A range of different band strengths, from soft to ultra strong, also allow rebounders to be customised to the weight of the user.
Integrating a rebounder into your daily routine starts with leaving it somewhere visible. Its presence will serve as a silent reminder, and a gentle encouragement to bounce. Nunan recommends adopting a “slow and steady” approach. “If you’re new to exercise, begin with only a few moments on the rebounder to strengthen all the muscles,” she says. “Listen to your body and decrease or increase your intensity and duration accordingly.”