Imagine a trampoline, with a senior, and not a kid, bouncing away in glee and absolute abandon on it!
I know that for most the image is too ludicrous. After all, a trampoline is just not something that goes with seniors. Most can’t help but ask, whatever are older adults going to do bouncing around?
Yet, rebounding exercises for seniors are all the rage these days, so much so that gyms and fitness centers have started offering exclusive classes and setups for mini trampoline exercises especially meant for the elderly.
This naturally brings us to the question – Is rebounder training one among a string of fads that promise health and longevity, or is the trampoline truly the senior fitness contraption that we have all been waiting for?
Continue reading to find out…
A trampoline: Is There More To It Than A Few Laughs And A Lot Of Fun Bouncing?
In order to explain how all that gleeful bouncing (I know the bounce comes first and then comes the glee and giggle) affect the body, you first need to understand what happens when your body goes soaring up in the air, even if it is by a mere 6-10 inches. It all starts with a jump that:
- Propels your body into the air (the height of ascent does not matter here; it could only be a few inches). As your body rises up, it is subjected to negative g force [approximately 2-3 (-) g, depending on the height achieved].
- Then you reach the very top of your ascent at which point your body stops just for a brief moment (milliseconds), and you experience weightlessness.
- On its way down, the body is subjected to positive g force [approximately 2-3 (+) g].
And that is how a single jump/bounce on the trampoline affects the body. The variations in the gravitational force exerted on your body are essentially a form of biomechanical stimuli that impacts every cell in the body.
Now, let us discuss what happens as you experience negative and positive g force as well as the brief moment of weightlessness.
- Every muscle in your body, goes through rhythmic flexing and relaxing. This includes the 640 skeletal muscles as well as all the smooth muscles that work the organs and all the tubes in the body. In other words, you work out every muscle cell in the body, thus making them stronger.
- All the cells in the body experience an oscillatory movement (up and down), which makes them use more energy. In response to this, the tiny generators (mitochondria) jump start themselves, increasing the energy output at the cellular level.
- The bones get as much of a workout as the muscles thanks to the biomechanical stimulation that results from the g forces acting on the skeletal system.
- The nerves inside the ear canal and the vestibular system in the inner ear that are responsible for the sense of balance also get stimulated and strengthened.
In simple words, every inch of your body and every cell in it gets a sound workout with all that bouncing. But, how do various organs and physiological systems respond to the stimulation?
The Benefits Of Rebounding For Seniors
Bouncing on the trampoline is boat loads of fun, which means that even fifteen minutes spent on the rebounder can give your brain a shot of both serotonin and dopamine.
For the skeletal system: No other exercise regimen works the bones like rebounding. In fact, it is the principle treatment methodology used by NASA to undo the detrimental effects of the zero gravity space environment, which can reduce the muscle and bone mass of astronauts by as much a 15%.
All that bouncing, cyclically subjects the bones to g-force impact, much like resistance training does for the muscles. This not only helps to maintain bone health but actually increases bone density.
As the skeletal system is subjected to stress, it grows stronger, which lowers the risk of degenerative bone and joint disorders, or at the least, reins them in.
For the lymphatic system: The g forces acting on the body help in the better and faster movement of the lymphatic fluids. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have the heart to pump the fluids through the body. Plus, lymphatic fluids move vertically and this flow is exclusively aided by physical movement.
Because your entire body moves in the vertical plane as you bounce on the trampoline, the lymphatic system gets a tremendous boost. This means that toxins and metabolic waste get purged out faster.
Moreover, lymphatic fluids carry lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells that fight off germs. This means better and faster immune response against infections.
For the digestive system: Remember the part about the impact of rebounding on the smooth muscles in the body. Well, your digestive tract is made up of these smooth muscles.
Since bouncing on a trampoline brings about a rhythmic flexing and relaxing of the smooth muscles, it helps in better and proper digestion as well as in the more efficient movement of the waste through the gastric tract.
For the muscles: Just ten minutes of rebounder exercises can work your muscles as much as 30-40 minutes of jogging. So, mini trampoline workouts are a great way to prevent age related muscle atrophy.
For cellular health: Rebounding causes oscillatory vibration at the cellular level in the body. This movement helps the cells to grow stronger and lowers the risk of cellular mutation, which is often the cause of age related tissue degradation and atrophy.
For energy levels: Since rebounding exercises increase cellular oxygenation, your body gets more energy from the mitochondria in each cell. Plus, mini trampoline workouts help to greatly increase the lung capacity, adding to the amount of oxygen available.
For the circulatory system: Like with the lymphatic and the digestive systems, rebounding also impacts the smooth muscles that line the veins and arteries. This lowers the strain on the cardiac muscles. Moreover, trampoline bounces prevent the pooling of blood in the extremities, thus lowering the risk of edema and clots.
For balance and posture: Rebounder exercises fine tune the response of the vestibular system in the inner ear. This greatly improves both balance and coordination.
Warm Up Rebounder Exercise For Older Adults
Whether you intend to continue working out on the trampoline or are just using it as a tool for warm up, this routine will help to get your body ready for a more grueling session, if that’s coming up.
This is the simplest and possibly the most fun exercise move for a mini trampoline. But, do not underestimate its ability to get your heart pumping and those muscles ready for some serious action. This is what you do:
Step 1: Start with your feet placed about 6 feet apart.
Step 2: When you are starting out on the rebounder, it is normal to feel out of balance when you first get on it. So hold on to the support bars with both hands.
Step 3: Lift your left leg up, about 6 inches from the surface and hold for 2-3 seconds and then place it down on the surface. Repeat on the other side. This will get your legs and the rest of your body ready to support you on the unstable surface of the trampoline. Do about 10 rounds of this.
Step 4: If you feel you can hold yourself upright without the support of the stability bars, let go and hold your arms close to your upper torso and bent at the elbows. However, if you don’t feel comfortable standing on the trampoline without support, continue to hold on to the stability bars.
Step 5: Bend your knees and jump up, you are not trying to get to a certain height with this move. This is merely a gentle bouncing session to get your comfortable on the rebounder. So, although you are jumping up a bit, there is no need to lift your feet off the trampoline for the warm-up.
Step 7: Do this for one minute and then try to build a bit of height, attempting to get about 5-10 inches between your feet and the trampoline with each jump. This, again, should be done for 1-2 minutes.
In all, the warm-up bounce should be done for 2-3 minutes or 20-30 bounces for each routine, so a total of 40-60 bounces. If you are just starting out on the trampoline, stick to the “feet on the mat” bounce and about a week or two down the line, work your way into the 6 to 10-inch height jump.
Getting The Heart Rate Going
Consider this to be an extension of the warm-up; one that takes you into serious workout territory without stressing those joints. The prance is both fun and a fantastic way to shed the pounds as well as to improve ticker health.
Like for the warm-up bounce, let go off the stability bars only if you are comfortable with standing and moving about on the trampoline without support.
If you are not so sure about balancing yourself, you can always alternate between your hands as you hold on to the stability bars. This will give you more room to move around while still lending the support you need to maintain your balance.
Step 1: Once again, you start with your feet placed 6 inches apart. You are not actually going to walk about; this is more like “in-place” jogging or prancing.
Step 2: If you are not holding on to the stability bars, place your hands on your hips.
Step 3: Raise yourself on the balls of your feet and lift your right leg, raising your knee as high as you can without losing balance. The idea is to engage your core to maintain your balance and not to grasp on to the stability bar for dear life. You don’t have to hold the knee raised position.
Step 4: Place the right leg down and raise the left leg. Remember that this is in place prancing. So, all the movement is done with you balancing yourself on the ball of the feet that you are standing on. No need to go too fast with this one. Keep the same pace as you would when walking.
You will need to do 30 lifts for each leg, making a total of 60 leg raises.
Mini Trampoline Exercise For Seniors That Improves Balance And Coordination
This is an easy exercise with very little bouncing but a lot of balancing involved in it. At first, you may have to hold on to the stability bars to maintain balance, but your aim should be to strengthen and engage your core to the point where you don’t need them anymore. This is what you need to do:
Step 1: Start with your feet placed apart at hip width and your arms stretched straight to your sides.
Step 2: Bend your left knee slightly and raise your right foot off the trampoline mat.
Step 3: Tap the front of the trampoline frame with your right toes. Then, move your leg to the side and tap the frame on your side.
Step 4: Move your foot forward to tap the front of the frame again before bringing it back to the starting position.
Step 5: Drop your arms back to the side of your body and straighten your left knee. Start again by raising your arms straight out to the sides of your body and bending the right knee this time. Repeat the three tap movements using the left foot.
The aim for this routine is to not go fast but to slow your pace down as far as possible. So start with 6 seconds to complete the three taps with each foot but slow this down to 12 seconds, spending about 4-5 seconds in each tap position.
If you need to hold the stability bar for support; start by using both hands to grab on to the bars but gradually work your way up to just a one-hand hold on the bars and then to moving your arms up and straight out on your sides. Assuming one rep to be three taps completed with both feet, go for 3 reps to begin with and then increase to 5 reps per session.
Rebounder workout for better spinal and back health
This is a twist in the literal sense on a classic flexibility exercise that helps to work the kinks out of the spine. As with all other workout moves, the trampoline adds to the benefits of the movement. This is what you need to do:
Step 1: Start with your feet placed together or no more than 2 inches apart for greater stability. Unless you have a few weeks of experience using the mini trampoline for workouts, I highly recommend that you hold on to the stability bar for this one. If there are two stability bars on your trampoline model (to the sides), hold on to just one of the bars with both your hands.
Step 2: Bend your knees and bounce on the trampoline and as your feet leave the surface, twist your upper torso to the right and rotate your lower body and legs to the left, twisting your spine gently in the process.
Step 3: Bring the body back to the neutral position and bend your knees and bounce again, this time rotate your upper torso to the left and your lower body to the right. Once again, bring the body to neutral position at the end of the bounce.
Step 4: Remember to keep your hips neutral but your abdomen tight through the bounce so that your core is adequately engaged.
Start slow with the exercise, going for 2-4 twist per minute and gradually increase your pace to 5-7 twists per minute. In terms of time, opt for 1-2 minutes of twisting at first and then work your way up to 3-4 minutes.
Mini Trampoline Workout For Leg Muscle Strength
Another classic workout move that offers better results when done on a trampoline, this one is particularly aimed at improving the strength of the calf and thigh muscles as well as the ankle joints. This is a squatting move but you need not dip yourself too low. Go as low as your knees allow and even if you are not really squatting, the pliability of the rebounder will work all the muscles in your legs. This is what you need to do:
Step 1: Start with your feet together and your arms gently grasping the stability bar or on your sides. If you are holding on to the stability bar, do not use your hands and the bar to pull you up and out of the squatting position. To avoid the instinctive need to do this, hold on to the bar lightly, so you get support if and when it’s needed.
Step 2: Bend your knees and jump, trying to put a distance of 6-10 inches between your feet and the trampoline surface, at the top of the bounce. Spread your feet apart to hip width as you jump up.
Step 3: As you land, bend your knees and go into a squat position. So, you don’t come out standing straight at the end of the bounce. Instead, you should be in the squatting position. Your thighs should ideally be parallel to the mat and your arms stretched straight out in the front, as if you are sitting in an imaginary chair. But, if your knees don’t permit you to go that low, lower your body as much as you can.
Step 4: With your knees still bent and your body in the squatting position, lightly bounce and bring yourself up into the standing position.
Repeat 3 times to begin with and then work your way up to 10-20 repetitions. You don’t have to build speed; instead work on your squatting and try to get your thighs as close to “parallel with the trampoline mat” as you can.
Rebounder Exercise For Older Adults That Helps In Weight Management And To Regulate Metabolism
The beauty of rebounding is that even regular, low intensity moves offer more when done on the trampoline; case in point “in-place” jogging. This simple exercise can give you the combined benefits of aerobic and resistance training.
If you want to get more out of it, you simply need to add light weights to the equation. Hold a dumbbell in each hand as you jog and that’s all you have to do to significantly amp up the intensity of the routine.
Safety considerations when using a mini trampoline
- Cotton socks as well as bare feet work the best when rebounding. You can also wear shoes if they make you feel more comfortable. The important thing is to ensure that your feet do not slip/slide on the pliable surface of the trampoline.
- Stick to snug fitting clothes. If you wear something that is too tight, it will constrict your movement and impact blood circulation. On the other hand, with clothes that are too loose, you run the risk of entanglement in the springs or the bungee cords.
- Ensure that you have adequate clearance on all side of the rebounder before you start exercising. Make sure that the light fixtures, construction elements (beams et al) and ceiling fans are not directly above the area where you have placed the trampoline.
- Keep the floor space around the rebounder clear of clutter. This way, there is a lower risk of banging into things or even tripping on objects as you dismount the trampoline.
- Mini trampolines get their pliability from the springs or the bungee cords on the side. Eventually, these design elements do wear out. So, it is important to check the rebounder at regular intervals to ensure that there are no broken springs or frayed bungee cords that can turn into a risk factor. This is particularly important if the trampoline is more than 1 year old or is placed outdoors and is constantly exposed to the elements.
- Like with all other forms of strenuous physical activity, mini trampoline exercises increase the body’s requirement of oxygen. So, make sure that you always work out in a well-ventilated room.
- Before you get off the rebounder, wait to come to a complete standstill. Never try to dismount the trampoline while coming out of a jump. Instead, step off the surface and onto the floor, carefully and slowly so that your balance is not compromised.
- As with all other forms of physical exercise, it is crucial to start slow and then work your way up to longer and more intense routines. In the beginning, stick to 5 minutes per day and the after a week, add 5 more minutes to the regimen. About three weeks down the line, you should be ready to graduate to 15-20 minutes.
- If 15 -20 minutes of exercise is too much for you, there is really no need to work out through the discomfort. Instead, simply divide the routine into shorter sessions of 5 minutes each and opt for 3-4 such sessions through the day. Just remember to space the sessions at least an hour apart.
- Avoid over exertion at all costs. If this means you need to skip a day between workout sessions, then so be it.
- Because rebounding works all the muscles in the body hard, it is normal to feel some amount of soreness. Bringing down the time and intensity of the routine can help to lower muscle pain. But if the discomfort is significant enough to prevent you from going about your day to day life or if it persists even after 2 weeks of regular workouts, stop the exercise regimen and consult your doctor.
- Some people experience light dizziness after or during rebounding because of the impact of the workout on the cardiovascular and the nervous systems. If you feel light headed, stop working out at once. If the dizziness continues to make an appearance even after 3-4 days of daily rebounding, seek advice from your doctor.
The beauty of rebounding for fitness is that you don’t have to go all acrobatic on yourself to reap the benefits. Even simple and gentle bouncing that never gets you more than 3-6 inches off of the surface of the trampoline will yield all the therapeutic effects of the workout.
In fact, most mini trampolines and workout rebounders are not designed to handle the strain meted out to Olympic grade equipment that is used for gymnastic routines. So, seniors need not feel bad if they can only manage a few minutes of bouncing on their rebounders, because that’s all you need!
And on that note, I leave you with my best wishes for a lot of happy and gleeful bouncing in the days and years to come!