By Tara Bannow • The Bulletin

Few types of exercise give Maggie Annschild the same immediate feedback as using a mini trampoline, which she and her trainer used to improve her balance and core strength.

“It’s not one of those exercises where you have to go, ‘Is it actually doing any good?’” she said. “I actually felt, ‘Oh, I’m getting better at this.’”

The Bend resident, who sees a personal trainer at 360 Strength & Conditioning twice each week, stood on the trampoline while she and her trainer tossed a medicine ball back and forth.

“I loved it,” Annschild said.

Trampolining for exercise — often called rebounding in the fitness industry — is by no means a new phenomenon. Some say its heyday was in the 1980s, but it never reached the same levels of popularity as running or biking. In Bend, no group classes or personal trainers who use trampolines regularly could be identified for this article.

A new study could prompt some people to give the exercise a second look. The study, performed by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, had a group of 24 healthy college students perform a 19-minute workout routine on mini trampolines. Their heart rates and oxygen intakes met the guidelines for improving cardiorespiratory fitness set by the American College of Sports Medicine. In fact, the exercise burned as many calories per minute as running 6 miles per hour or biking 14 miles per hour.

What’s more, the students rated how hard they were working at an average of 11.7 on a six through 20 scale. The study used what’s called the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. On that scale, a six equates to no activity and 20 corresponds to very, very difficult activity. Scores of 11 and 12 are considered fairly light.

“Meaning physiologically they were working pretty hard, but they perceived it to be fairly easy, which is a good thing,” said John Porcari, an exercise and sport science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and leader of the research team.

Past research shows benefits

The American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that provides certification and training for fitness professionals, funded the study to learn about the intensity of mini-trampoline exercise and how it stacks up against other forms of exercise.

ACE doesn’t get money from trampoline-makers or companies that promote the exercise, but the organization had been getting a lot of inquiries on the subject from consumers and members of the media, said Shannon Fable, an ACE spokeswoman and a personal trainer in Boulder, Colorado.

“We noticed there is very little research that is available regarding the effectiveness,” she said. “So, we commissioned the study.”

It’s a small study, published in ACE’s monthly journal ProSource, but its findings align with previous research on the subject.

A study published online last month in the journal Science & Sports found that 18 overweight women who participated in a 50-minute mini-trampoline exercise session reached heart rate and calorie expenditure levels that could be considered vigorous physical activity.

Another study published online in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine in July involved 14 11- to 14-year-old boys completing 20 weeks of mini-trampoline exercise sessions. The subjects performed the exercises in 90-minute intervals four times per week. At the end of the 20-week period, researchers determined the subjects had shed a statistically significant amount of body fat compared with a control group of 14 of their peers. The trampoline group’s body fat measured 9.56 percent after the study, compared with 11.74 percent before the study.

‘Happy bubbles’

Exercising on a trampoline is ideal for someone who needs an exercise that’s less taxing on their joints compared with running or the popular technique called high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating between periods of intense activity and rest, said Fable, of ACE.

“People are just looking for something that’s a smidge gentler but still able to get the heart rate up and to feel that sweat and that type of workout without the impact,” she said.

On top of that, she said, it’s just fun. Fable used to teach trampolining classes, and she uses the not-so-scientific term “happy bubbles” to describe her students’ reactions.

“It just makes exercise enjoyable,” she said. “When you can connect joy to exercise, it helps you think of exercise as a gift and not a chore, which is going to help you do it more often.”

Porcari noticed the same thing during his study. The students were having fun.

“People really seem to enjoy it,” he said.

Improved balance

Limited research has also found mini trampolines can help with balance among elderly subjects. A 2014 study in the journal Archives and Gerontology and Geriatrics, for example, compared three types of exercise — mini trampolines, water gymnastics and floor gymnastics — and found each improved balance among a group of 74 women with an average age of 69.

Trampolines improve balance because they challenge the small muscles in people’s feet that are not used while walking on stable ground, Porcari said.

“Any time you have to adapt to a changing environment that’s unstable, I think you’re subtly challenging the intrinsic muscles in your feet and in your lower leg to adapt to that,” he said.

Wendy Cooper, a personal trainer with 360 Strength & Conditioning in Bend, said she occasionally will toss the trampoline-medicine ball exercise into her training regimens with older clients to help with balance and strengthen their shoulder muscles.

People at lower fitness levels would benefit the most from using a trampoline, Cooper said.

“You could do it with just about anybody, but I think somebody with a higher fitness level would be sort of bored with it,” she said.

The drawbacks

The obvious pitfall of trampolining is the cost of purchasing the equipment, finding a place to store it when it’s not in use and — when it comes to group classes — finding a room big enough to host a roomful of students.

Monica McClain-Smith, fitness coordinator with Bend Park & Recreation, said she and other local fitness instructors once attended a conference where they learned about the health benefits of trampolining. It piqued their interest, but ultimately, she said establishing a class would have been too expensive.

The other tricky thing about offering a class is finding the right instructors to teach it, Fable said. Unlike many other forms of exercise, trampoline trainers must be willing to perform the entire exercise routine along with the class, she said.

“It’s a really tough class to teach,” Fable said.

Especially among older women, incontinence could become an issue if they’re jumping on a trampoline for long periods of time, Fable said. Some women may have already experienced this if they’ve tried classes that involve kick-boxing or jump-roping.

Tips for newbies

There’s a wide range of mini trampolines on the market, ranging in price from $30 at Walmart to $774 from bellicon. Fable recommends people go for a midrange trampoline, which would run between $150 and $200. It’s most important to choose one with a firm, dense mat that pushes back when the user bounces.

First-timers can look into videos offered by companies like JumpSport or Urban Rebounding, which Fable said provide good instruction.

Otherwise, they could simply alternate between a small jog and a big jog or bouncing up and down, Fable said. She also recommends positioning the body into a semi-squat and pushing down into the mat without springing up.

Another possibility would be a high-intensity interval training-style workout on the trampoline, Cooper said. To do that, someone could jump vigorously for 30 seconds to get their heart rate up and then rest for 30 seconds, repeating that for anywhere from six to 20 minutes, depending on one’s fitness level, she said.

“If you didn’t want to pull something up online,” Cooper said, “that would be a simple way to incorporate it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0304,

tbannow@bendbulletin.com

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