Rebounding’s unique qualities are used to help people in ways that you might not expect.
The extraordinary fitness benefits of rebounding, a topic that felt like an insider secret just a few years ago, is progressively becoming common knowledge. Fitness gurus and celebrity “influencers,” using the ever-increasing power of social media, let that genie out of the bottle. So, not surprisingly, along with the surge of media attention, public interest has continued to rise. Rebounding’s health benefits are in the spotlight a lot lately, too, fueled by the fact that so many people are looking for effective ways to reinforce their health during the pandemic.
However, even with interest in rebounding spiking, one question you don’t often hear is, “why does bouncing on a little trampoline, of all things, offer so many benefits?”
To answer that question, you’ve got to consider how unusual rebounding exercise is: we bounce to create waves of gravitational forces that engage the entire body, inside and out, thus dramatically improving fitness. Whaaat? No other exercise operates like that! But that’s the essence of rebounding.
Even experts in fields other than fitness have taken advantage of rebounding’s unique performance and qualities to help people live safer, healthier, more enjoyable lives. Looking at that research offers some unusual insights into how deeply effective rebounding is in ways that we, those of us who bounce for fitness, might not expect.
Here are a few examples:
It strengthens and conditions your NECK...?
It may seem strange that someone looking to improve the condition of their neck muscles would turn to rebounding exercise, but that's just what the Finnish Air Force did.1 It turns out that fighter pilots can suffer from a lot of neck strain, which makes sense when you think about it: imagine wearing a heavy helmet while flying at Mach speeds and pulling multiple g-forces with every turn. To help them, the Air Force compared two approaches, one that involved direct physical conditioning that consisted of "dynamic flexion and extension and isometric rotation exercises" (in other words, "stretching and muscle training") and the other was simply bouncing on a trampoline. Even though bouncing doesn't isolate the neck, as the other therapies did, they found that it was just as effective at increasing the neck's fitness and its ability to resist strain.
This study also does a great job of supporting the fact that rebounding is a true full-body exercise: the neck is just about as far from the jumping surface as you can get, and if bouncing was able to get their necks in shape, imagine what it was doing for all the muscles in between. When you consider how much of the body is engaged when you bounce, it's no wonder that studies have shown rebounding burns more fat and calories than running! 2
It's helping people overcome EMOTIONAL TRAUMA...?
The bellicon rebounder, the first to use a bungee suspension, is distinguished in a number of ways from standard mini-trampolines, including its uniquely gentle, smooth, quiet, and enjoyable bounce performance.
Many therapists have taken advantage of the bellicon's qualities, but one in particular has used them in a particularly innovative way: Dr. Peter Levine, a pioneer in the field of trauma therapy and the founder of the Somatic Experiencing Institute. For decades, Dr. Levine has been helping people overcome the physical and emotional damage trauma has caused in their life. Dr. Levine, who's never had any formal relationship with bellicon, has promoted the bellicon for no other reason than his belief in its ability to be uniquely beneficial.
Dr. Levine offered these observations:
"I became interested in the work with the bellicon because it's a way to very gently, in a playful way, begin to bring people back a little bit more and more to their bodies. I use it as part of a treatment but I also recommend it for a number of my students to use in teaching for my clients to use at home as a way of again finding a peaceful vibrant way to reconnect with themselves in a physical way. The smooth movement is the key because if it's something that's hard, like the trampolines that have springs, what happens is that really jars the person, but that's what trauma does, it shakes the person, it shakes them out of their body, so you want something that gradually brings them back into their body. That's where the elastic technology that you people have developed is very valuable. It really allows this gentle reconnection, and you don't get that if you have the springs, which is more like getting a schleudertrauma [whiplash injury]."
It's helpful for children with AUTISM...?
Children with autism struggle with complex issues that often include impairment of communication and social interaction, motor and sensory difficulties, isolation, and they tend to be more sedentary than other children their age. For years now, many doctors and therapists have involved mini-trampolines in their work with autistic children, finding it beneficial in various ways.
A study, published in 2015 in the Journal of Physical Education and Sport,3 addressed the motor proficiency, muscle strength deficiencies, and sensory difficulties that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD] often have. Though the study wasn't published that long ago, it's interesting that the researchers noted, "there is no study addressing the effects of trampoline-based programs on the physical fitness of children with ASD."
The study's participants were a group of children from ages 4 to 11 and consisted of an exercise program of simple warm-ups, games and bouncing. The results were impressive: "The trampoline-based training significantly contributed to the improvement of both the motor proficiency and strength of the inferior limbs...we recommend the trampoline training, which is an excellent strategy to address these problems, in addition to having a valuable playful component."
What's truly remarkable about the fact that rebounding "significantly contributed to the improvement" of the children's fitness is that, though the study was 32 weeks long, it only involved one 45-minute session a week. Showing significant improvements with such infrequent sessions makes this study another prime example of the efficiency of rebounding exercise.
A separate study, published in 2019 in the journal Autism and Developmental Disorders 4 examined how the use of mini-trampolines could simultaneously address the physical challenges of children with ASD as well as the social and "psychosocial" issues they face, such as "decreased social skills, immature play skills, impaired self-concept, and difficulties performing daily living skills"
The program included eight to ten 50-minutes bouncing sessions, with classes twice a week consisting of 5-7 children using the bellicon rebounder. To quote the researchers, "The bellicon rebounder uses bungee cord technology to allow for bigger and smoother sensory feedback with each bounce."
The study's conclusions showed significant improvement in both "the motor and social needs of children with autism and sensory processing challenges." The researchers even include the heartwarming observation that "there was much more joy observed within the group by each of the participants...evidenced by increased laughter, increased time spent on the rebounder."
Rebounding is full of surprises
The applications above aren't a complete list (by any means) of the lesser-known benefits and applications of rebounding exercise, but hopefully, it is a reminder that this is a unique form of exercise: powerful and gentle, enhancing the body and lifting the spirit. No other workout harnesses gravitational changes the way rebounding does, transforming them into fitness and health, head to toe, inside and out, even in ways that we might not expect.
1 Sovelius, Roope et al. "Trampoline exercise vs. strength training to reduce neck strain in fighter pilots." Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, vol. 77,1 (2006): 20-5.
2 Şahin, Gülşah et al. "Does Mini-Trampoline Training More Effective than Running on Body Weight, Body Fat, VO2 max and Vertical Jump in Young Men?" International Journal of Sports Science, Vol. 6, 1 (2016): 1-5.
3 Lourenço, Carla et al. "The effect of a trampoline-based training program on the muscle strength of the inferior limbs and motor proficiency in children with autism spectrum disorders." Journal of Physical Education and Sport 15(3), (2015) 592 - 597.
4 Pan, Chien-Yu, and Georgia C Frey. "Physical activity patterns in youth with autism spectrum disorders." Journal of autism and developmental disorders vol. 36,5 (2006): 597-606.