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  • Writer's pictureJackie

Jump for Joy—And Fitness!

The ups & downs of the rebounder craze

Well, it’s official—My home gym now includes a trampoline. It's a mini one, only about 38 inches wide, not the backyard picnic kind. Fitness pros call it a “rebounder,” a name that doesn’t even come close to describing how gleeful a workout you get on the thing!

So, yes, you've picked up on the fact that I LOVE this new workout, which feels partly like a kid’s birthday party & partly like old school aerobics. Maybe you’ve even attended a class, which are gaining popularity, or purchased your own rebounder. It’s become a bit of a craze. (Hey, we need ALL the fun we can pack into life these days, right? All the better if some comes with a workout!)

Know this, though—Rebounding, as playful it appears, does challenge a body. There are ups & downs, benefits & precautions, to consider. Before you start jumping, think carefully about the following.

On the Upside:

Rebounding really IS fun.

If you tend to run, walk, kickbox, do cardio step, or love some other land-based aerobic exercise, then working out on a rebounder will make you feel like a springy super hero. You’ll think you’re light as air. And you need not even use a class format (though you’ll find some good, free ones on YouTube). Simply try a light jog, ham curls, jacks, and other basic moves, using music that runs about 120 beats per minute (for beginners).

It’s a more strenuous workout than you’ll perceive.

When rebounding, people tend to think they’re working out less hard than their heart rates would indicate. In fact, in a recent study by the American Council on Exercise, experts measured the actual physical intensity of a rebounding workout as "moderate to vigorous," but subjects' perceived exertion ratings indicated that they felt it was a "light to moderate" workout. This alone is a fantastic reason to adopt rebounding. When the work seems more doable, we do more. Personally, I can attest to this. There are days when I’ve planned to jump for 15 minutes, just interspersing rebounding with more traditional cardio, and I’ve ended up doing 30 because, heck, my heart rate was up and I could “go all day!”

Rebounding helps to improve balance & proprioception.

And unstable surface will do this! As you navigate the bouncy platform, your body must adjust balance & its sense of where it is in space at any given moment (aka, proprioception). Even simply standing still on the platform or shifting weight in different directions or lifting one foot will challenge these skills. A 2014 study published in Gerontology & Geriatrics that focused on elderly women who worked out on a mini trampoline (and also did more traditional exercise) showed improvements in postural balance.

Rebounders are not just for cardio.

Want to take your squats, lunges, and core exercises up a notch? Using a rebounder as your surface, you will. (If you’ve used a BOSU ball for such moves, it’s similar, only the surface, being flat rather than dome-shaped, curves more downward with your bodyweight.) Again, even simply standing on top and doing biceps curls, etc, will provide an added challenge.

Rebounders are portable and easy to store.

Most span a diameter of 36-40” with small, often removable legs and can lean up against a wall or slide under a bed for storage. Lightweight, they’re also easy to carry and transport. (Mine may be going to the beach this fall!)

On the Downside:

You may want to forego rebounding if you have certain physical conditions.

As with any new exercise, you should talk with your doctor. Some of the particular concerns regarding rebounding include the following. If you have back, hip, knee, or ankle issues, osteoporosis, or sciatica, these can obviously be exacerbated on a rebounder due to its unstable surface. Vertigo and serious balance issues may also make this workout a poor choice. Bladder and pelvic floor issues could also make you rethink rebounding because gravitational forces can put stress on these areas. (I ALWAYS hit the rest room before rebounding!!)

Unless a friend also owns a rebounder, it’s hard to buddy up.

If you tend to work out with friends for inspiration and you fall in love with rebounding, you may find yourself begging them to buy one. Classes are not always widely available, either, although again, you could find a fun one online.

It’s not as quiet as you might think.

If you live in an apartment or just don’t want to wake family at the crack of dawn, bear in mind that rebounding does sound like a drum beating somewhere in the house! I wouldn’t say it’s any louder than a treadmill, for example, but it isn’t silent, either. You won’t mind it yourself because it’s cool to keep the beat, but your roomie may have bass drum nightmares.

So, having said all this, if you plan to “take the leap,” follow these basic suggestions:

Consult with your physician before beginning ANY new workout.

• As a beginner, consider purchasing a rebounder with a balance bar, allowing you to have added stability.

Do NOT jump for height. (Cirque du Soleil performers we are not. Well, I’M not!) Focus on bouncing lightly and pressing your heels into the platform each time, rather than leaping upward, which dramatically increases the force on joints.

Start slowly. Do not try to keep a beat with super fast music. Because the surface is uneven, you’ll need to adjust your coordination skills over time. You also do not want to risk inadvertently twisting an ankle.

• Obviously, place the rebounder away from items that could cause injury should you stumble. (I steer clear of my dumbbell collection, for example.)

• Also be sure to have overhead clearance, though again you will not be leaping sky high. It seems that normal ceiling heights are fine. (In fact, my kids were convinced I’d be smacking into our basement tract lights—I don’t even come close! But I’m only 5” 4”, so eyeball your own ceilings accordingly.) I also absolutely love dragging the rebounder out to my deck to enjoy nature as I jump (and to provide yet more entertainment for the next door neighbors).

Be careful stepping off after your workout, especially in the early days. I literally felt like I had no "sea legs" the first time I disembarked! Over time, your proprioceptive system will adjust.

Read reviews and purchase a rebounder of decent quality (typically, around $80 to start, though higher-end versions can approach $200).

Should you take the leap, ENJOY! I gotta bounce now. But if you rebound, let me know what you think, superhero.


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