Getting The Jump On Fitness

By Tammy York

Indoor exercises commonly include such uses as a running track, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes. What these amenities have in common is the need for valuable floor space--which may be in short supply in your facility. Exercise equipment that is stackable helps to increase the ability to offer a variety of activities without the need for permanent, allocated floor space.

In addition to classes for yoga, Pilates, and aerobic exercise, another alternative is a trampoline class. Unlike a backyard trampoline or an Olympic-size trampoline, smaller fitness trampolines can be stacked into the corner of a facility until needed, either for a class or by a member wishing to use one. Plus, participants can sign up--and more importantly, pay for--a class, generating additional revenue for a facility.

Quick History Of Trampolines
Trampolines were originally used to train astronauts and as a training tool for acrobatic sports, such as diving, gymnastics, and freestyle skiing. The first trampoline was developed in 1934 by George Nissen and Larry Griswold at the University of Iowa. Once people discovered how much fun a trampoline could be, it started appearing in backyards. Since then, acrobatics on the trampoline has become a men’s and women’s Olympic sport, with the first appearance at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

Fitness Benefits
Trampoline or rebounder aerobics gives participants an effective cardiovascular workout that reportedly burns more calories than simply jogging. The rebounding also increases flexibility and balance. Since the trampoline stretches, it absorbs some of the impact, reducing the shock on the body. Benefits of low-impact aerobics on a trampoline include increased bone density and cardiovascular health.

According to N.A.S.A., Journal of Applied Physiology, “For similar levels of heart rate and oxygen consumption, the magnitude of the biomechanical stimuli is greater with jumping on a rebounder trampoline than with running, a finding that might help identify acceleration parameters needed for the design of remedial procedures to avert de-conditioning in persons exposed to weightlessness.”

In the 1990 Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, a study found that a mini-trampoline provides a convenient form of exercise, with a major advantage being the apparent low level of trauma to the musculoskeletal system.

Since the activities on a trampoline are versatile, exercise programs can be designed to meet the needs of children, teens, adults, and seniors. “A bar can be added to the trampoline to help people balance,” says Abbie Appel, JumpSport master trainer. “By bouncing on a trampoline, you have to engage your core muscles because every time you land, your body has to react and brace, which strengthens pelvic floor, abdominal, and oblique muscles.”

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Trampoline Courts
In addition to the small and stackable fitness trampolines, there are large trampoline facilities like Xtreme Trampolines in Carol Stream, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The facility is literally a warehouse filled with commercial-quality trampolines with side walls made from angled trampolines.

“We have five separate trampoline courts for specific age groups,” says Eric Beck, the owner. “The courts are a combination of square- and rectangular-shaped trampolines to fit the facility and the age group using them.”

The five courts include one for 3- to 7-year-olds that is 40 feet by 50 feet, and the other four courts are 42 feet by 75 feet, and divided for 8- to 13-year-olds and 14 years old and older. Users sign a waiver, and a parent signature is required for participants under 18.

“Typically, we have 10 people working, including the court monitors who are trained to make sure everyone follows the rules,” says Beck. “The monitors are dressed in referee shirts and have whistles to quickly get the attention of the jumpers."

The Carol Stream facility opened in November 2010, and has seen a steady audience of patrons averaging 16 years old.  The fees are about the same for a movie, popcorn, and a drink--$11 for the first hour and $5 for every hour after that.

Many court facilities also offer trampoline aerobic classes. “In trampoline aerobic classes, the participants stay on the same square and do an aerobic routine, as well as sit-ups and push-ups, using the flexible floor of the trampoline,” says Beck.  “It is more work to exercise on a trampoline. In a very short amount of time, you are breathing heavily and getting your heart rate up, and in an hour, you can burn 1,000 calories.”

Safety
As with any physical activity, there are risks involved. It is prudent to have participants sign off on a user agreement and waiver to help avoid lawsuits. Most of the reported accidents involve a backyard trampoline, and include broken legs, arms, necks, or backs.

In a trampoline court, common injuries include damage to the ankles and knees. These injuries are typically caused when a participant lands incorrectly; the force of the body mass in motion is the vector for the injury.

“We have a safety video, and give instructions on how to jump with your feet shoulder-width apart, and to jump on the middle of the trampoline,” says Beck. “One problem we see and are actively addressing is people with previous injuries, such as broken bones or sprained ankles [that] might not be fully healed, and they come to jump.”

Safety Begins
Whether you select stackable fitness trampolines or build a trampoline court, safety begins with providing safe equipment and teaching constituents how to safely jump.

People will naturally gravitate to new and exciting fitness activities. You just need to provide the safest environment possible so an injury doesn’t interfere with the quest for good health.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at tammy@landsharkcommunications.com.