This One Childhood Toy Can Transform Your Health
I grew up living two doors over from a family of six kids. Looking back on this now, it must have been an interesting task for those parents to come up with distracting activities for ALL of their kids to take part in at once. The one thing I can remember is that every weekend, all six of those kids, along with half our neighborhood, would pile into their backyard, and jump around on their giant trampoline. Man, those were the days!
So why am I telling you about my childhood neighbors? Well, because little did I know that I was reaping some actual health benefits from having that much fun (aside from the chemical benefits of simply having fun). How is a trampoline beneficial to your health, you ask? Well, check this out…
Once you get past the visions of shiny 80’s spandex and neon-colored headbands, and look at the research, you’ll see that trampolines, specifically mini-trampolines, aka “rebounders,” can provide an impressive list of unique health benefits. So while my neighbors had a massive trampoline- and as I’ll get into, not all trampolines are created equally, the benefits were very real. With that said, let’s first take a look at how rebounding affects your body, as having an understanding of this will help to explain why rebounding so positively impacts your health.
How Rebounding Impacts Your Body
When you bounce on a rebounder, a specific multi-stage process occurs, which I’ll call the “rebound cycle.” The rebound cycle is a four-step process that looks like this:
- Impact – Your body hits the trampoline canvas.
- Acceleration Up – The trampoline canvas contracts, pushing your body upward at an accelerating speed.
- Weightlessness – At the top of the bounce, your body hangs for a moment in the air, weightless.
- Acceleration Down – Your body accelerates back towards the earth, to hit the rebounder, bounce back up and repeat the cycle.
During a light rebounding exercise routine, this cycle repeats hundreds of times. Each cycle has a profound impact on your entire body, because of increased g-force. G-force (“g” is short for “gravitational”) is a measurement of the type of acceleration that distorts your perception of gravity, and subsequently your own weight.
Have you ever felt super heavy, and squished into your seat on a rollercoaster, or in one of those horrible spinning tea-cup rides? That’s the impact of increased g-force on your body. Your normal body-weight, measured in g-force, is equal to 1 G. Every time your body accelerates, whether traveling up or down, your body feels an increase in g-force. So, on the rebounder, your body experiences light increases in g-force with every jump – typically an increase of 2-4 “G’s” – i.e. 2-4x the normal feeling of gravity. The higher you jump, the more g-force you feel when you land again.
The Health Benefits of Rebounding
So how exactly does this increase in g-force impact your body? In other words, why would you want to rebound? Here are some the benefits rebounding can bring to your body:
Oxygenates and Strengthens Cells
Much of the science and research on the benefits of rebounding came from studies published by NASA back in the 80’s. Back then, NASA was researching ways to help astronauts recover from the negative impacts of extended time in zero-gravity space– namely, loss of bone and muscle mass. Astronauts can lose up to 15% of their bone and muscle mass after spending just 14 days in space!
To counteract these negative effects of spending time in space, NASA researchers performed tests comparing rebounding with running on a treadmill. From this research, NASA found that the g-force fluctuations of rebounding can lead to more oxygen reaching our cells– in some cases, up to 68% more! Not only that – compared with running on a treadmill, cells can receive more oxygen from less effort during rebounding. The more oxygen reaches your cells, the stronger they (and thus your tissues, organs, and muscles as well) get, and the more efficiently you’re able to exercise.
Increases Bone Density
The National Center for Biotechnology Information cites nearly two dozen different studies that show how resistance training (with bands or weights) helps build bone-mass, density, and overall strength. The science points to a simple concept: our bones strengthen when subjected to heavier weights.
Rebounding provides the same benefits as weight training– without the need for weights! Rebounding does this thanks to the g-force increases of the rebound cycle. With every jump on a rebounder, and every increase of g-force, your body feels heavier. This experience subjects your bones to a mild, low-impact stress, for just a moment. Over time, your bones strengthen in response to this stress – just as if you were lifting weights.
Provides a Total-Body Workout
Every time you land on the rebounder surface after a jump, you experience an increase of at least 2 G’s of force. This increase in g-force causes every muscle in your body to involuntarily flex. And then, at the top of the jump cycle, when you experience a moment of 0 G’s, complete weightlessness, all your muscles relax.
What this means is that with every jump on a rebounder, you’re toning and exercising all 638 muscles in your body. Even those little ones you didn’t even know you had. This type of total-body workout, where all your muscles are working in sync with one another, does wonders for your health. It helps you lose weight, burn fat, improve your metabolism, and even lose cellulite.
Improves Balance and Proprioception
When rebounding, you need to keep both your body and your mind actively engaged, in order to avoid falling, or bouncing yourself off the rebounder! With each bounce, you’re improving your balance, your awareness of your limbs and your overall body position (aka proprioception), and your ability to effectively shift your weight (to stay on the rebounder).
One study, done by the Cornell Hospital for Special Surgery, tested subjects’ proprioception by having them stand on one leg with their eyes closed. The study found that after two months of jumping on a rebounder for 20 minutes, 3x a week, subjects were able to stand on one leg for several seconds longer.
Low-Impact on Joints
The NASA studies referenced above found that, when running, there was always twice as much g-force measured at the ankles than at the back and forehead. This g-force imbalance is what leads to injuries like shin splints and knee problems. Rebounding, on the other hand, was shown to equally distribute g-force across the body– almost equally between the measure points used in the study: the ankle, back and forehead. This makes rebounding easy on the joints, and a great exercise for people recovering from joint-related injuries.
Boosts Detoxification and Immune Function
The lymphatic system is one of our body’s main detoxification systems. This system transports a colorless fluid called lymph around your body. Lymph carries our white blood cells around our body (as well as proteins, salts and glucose), and acts as our body’s drainage system. It gathers up microbes, bacteria and toxins, and helps flush them from your system.
Lymph relies on movement to circulate throughout your body. While any movement or exercise helps increase lymph flow, rebounding is especially effective at doing so, thanks to the increased g-forces of bouncing. These increases of g-force are believed to aid in opening the valves of your lymphatic system, which causes a surge in lymphatic flow, and thus an immune-function, detoxing boost.
One study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information also show increased G’s correlate with increased activity of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
Which Rebounder Should You Choose?
If you Google “mini-trampoline” or “rebounder” you’ll quickly see there are several options to choose from. The good news is that I can simplify things for you. There are two main kinds of rebounders: those with springs, and those without. Those with springs are much cheaper, much more likely to break, and much harder on your joints. If you’re looking to take the best care of your body, I highly recommend you invest in a higher-quality rebounder, that doesn’t use steel-springs.
The top of the line option to check out is a Bellicon rebounder. Bellicon uses elastic bungee bands instead of steel springs, which are much easier on your joints. Not to mention much quieter than squeaky springs! They’re also very reasonably priced, especially when you consider just how effectively they can replace several other workouts you might currently be doing.
In summary, rebounding can lead to a healthier, stronger body, and longer, better workouts. And on top of all the science and research, it’s flat-out fun! Jumping on a rebounder releases endorphins, and can transport you back to your childhood (or at least mine)! And if you’re anything like me, you could use as much of that in your life as possible. So what are you waiting for? Go grab a Bellicon and start bouncing!