I was thinking of buying a small trampoline to improve my general fitness and hopefully lose 10 — 14 lbs in weight. Are they a good idea? How long should a 65-year old woman spend on it each day to see results?
I can think of two very good reasons why you might want to buy a mini-trampoline (or “rebounder” as they are often called). They cost a fraction of the price of a home treadmill. And they are a lot more fun.
Mini-trampolines have been around since the 1970s and high-street stores sell them at between £30 and £100. The more expensive ones fold up and the maximum weight they take varies (the sturdiest models will support someone up to 140kg or 22st). Most come with a “how-to” book and/or DVD.
If you read the marketing blurb you’d think they were miracle-machines, with claims that they can reduce your blood pressure, help banish cellulite, de-fur your arteries, increase your bone density, energise and detoxify you and reduce your arthritic pain.
Unfortunately there seems to be very little independent scientific evidence to support any of these claims. This doesn’t mean mini-trampolines are useless – many gyms, physiotherapists and athletes use them. Just don’t rush out and buy one because you believe it will sort out your cellulite.
The regular, rhythmic gentle bouncing action is a very good form of cardiovascular exercise: it gets your heart rate up and your breathing going. If you maintain a decent effort level (akin to a brisk uphill walk) for the right length of time (up to 30 minutes), three to five times a week, you should feel some health and fitness benefits.
As with any exercise, start cautiously (perhaps just a few minutes) and build up the time and intensity of your workout over the weeks. For the first few sessions it’ll feel odd, both because it’s an unstable surface and because gravity is playing around with your body as you bounce. Do read the manufacturers’ advice about technique: it’s not at all like a big trampoline and I wouldn’t advise jumping on it with both feet: more of a gentle “cycling” or stepping action.
If you use it diligently the main health gains will be in your heart and lung fitness, plus some muscle toning. Another possible added benefit is improved balance – the wobbliness of the rebounder challenges the body’s joints to sharpen up their reactions. But if it’s too unsteady for you at first, you can buy a stability hand rail with some models, to give extra balance support. Use this at first, but aim to rely on it less and less as your balance and strength improve.
You’ll only lose weight if you also control your food intake and increase your overall activity levels.
Despite the lack of research back-up, I also like the fact that mini-trampolines are “low impact”: the springs cushion your skeleton far more than is possible when you jog on dry land, which may make it a useful tool for some people with arthritis.