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Born to Bound

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Linda steps tentatively on the small, trampoline we`ve set up in the for a photo shoot

Linda steps tentatively on the small, trampoline we've set up in the for a photo shoot. Her feet barely leave the springy surface in her first hesitant jumping attempts. Then a grin spreads across her face and her bouncing becomes confident. Another "rebounder" is born!

Rebounding is an exercise program which involves stretching, aerobic activity and some strength training on a trampoline with a diameter of about 0.9 metres (about three feet). The activity began early in the 1900s, but the term rebounding wasn't coined until about 30 years ago. It has enjoyed a burst of popularity in the last couple of years, especially among baby-boomer women like Linda. Fitness clubs have been racing to keep up with demand for classes and workout guidance for rebounding programs.

The news of "the perfect exercise" seems to be getting out!

Perhaps the most impressive supporter of rebounding has been the National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA! For years NASA has used a form of rebounding to condition astronauts for weightlessness. In the course of their studies, NASA researchers also discovered that rebounding is 68 percent more energy efficient than jogging or running.

Gravity is the key to this efficiency. When we walk or jog, we speed up and slow down on a horizontal plane you can't run up into the air or down into the ground! Gravity works vertically it pulls you down, while you, by standing upright, pull upwards to oppose it. In a rebounding workout, by jumping up and down, the acceleration and deceleration is combined with the force of gravity. This gravitational force is increased three-fold, providing enough resistance to encourage optimum energy output.

Reasons for Rebounding

Perhaps the system that benefits most from rebounding is the lymphatic system. Lymph is the fluid (primarily water) that surrounds our cells. It maintains a healthy balance in the body by transporting nutrients, hormones, ions and minerals to cells. It also transports waste from cells. It's sometimes referred to as the secondary circulatory system.

Unlike the primary circulatory system which transports blood, the lymphatic system has no pump. Lymph flow is instead stimulated by a body in motion, or muscle contraction. Rebound exercise provides all motions necessary to maintain and increase lymph flow. This motion also aids blood circulation.

Strength training comes from working against the combined forces of acceleration, deceleration and gravity. The rebounding theory suggests that the body experiences a triple gravitational force. Like calf muscle cells, which become stronger in resistance training, all of the cells of the body naturally adjust to become three times as strong. The result is conditioning of the whole body.

One of the reasons for rebounding's popularity is its accessibility. Just about any aerobic or stretching exercise can be performed on the rebounder without the risk of injury that comes with regular, high-impact exercise. It is also gentle enough for those who often experience foot pain while walking or engaging in a traditional work-out. Because of this non-jarring characteristic, senior rebounders have found it an excellent way to improve upon balance and and to build strength. Training with a friend or with a safety bar makes it even easier.

Seniors have found that, in addition to the circulatory benefits mentioned, the constant movement relieves constipation. It also reduces the occurrence of hemorrhoids. Gentle jumping, particularly with the safety bar, has been shown to improve posture and coordination. Also, rebounding has been shown to be a good preventive measure against osteoporosis. Those who suffer from osteoporosis can use the "Team Rebounding" for maximum benefit.

Individual Training

Many people who use wheelchairs have found rebounding a practical way to build their strength. The method they use is called "Team Rebounding." To exercise the legs, the person puts her chair in a locked position and lifts her legs onto the mat of the rebounder. Then a partner gets on the rebounder, straddles the person's feet and bounces gently.

For an upper-body workout, the person can sit on the rebounder, with her legs on the floor. As she maintains her seated position by holding onto the safety bar, her partner bounces gently behind her. The initial bouncing need last no longer than 30 seconds, three times a day, building as endurance improves.

Rebounding is also great for kids it's safe, and they generally enjoy playing on the mini-trampoline! Just make sure they don't go from a high bounce on the rebounder to the floor; this causes unnecessary stress to the knees and ankles.

Alfhild Akselsen, PhD, has worked extensively with children with learning disabilities. She has found that most of these children have extremely poor co-ordination, balance and rhythm all of which improved after sessions of rebounding. She called the results of working with these children "astounding." She attributes the learning improvement to the fact that toxic heavy metals are leached out of brain cells more quickly when rebounding, and nourishment is better able to reach the cells.

Rebounding workouts are structured similar to floor workouts. It's best to begin with a floor warm up, similar to the kind done in a low-impact aerobics class. Warm the lower half of the body, then the upper, for about four minutes. Then continue the warm up for another four minutes on the rebounder. Once the body is warm, you can work on aerobic exercises for about 26 minutes. (Linda demonstrates some of these in the accompanying photographs.) If you choose, you can follow this with four minutes of sports-specific bouncing (like running and sprinting) and then four minutes of strength bouncing (short, explosive movements done for power). The workout ends with a cool down on the rebounder and then the floor, similar to the warm up. You can follow this with five minutes of abdominal (seated) bounces.

There are books and videos available on rebounding ask at your health food store. You're just a hop, skip and a jump away from a healthy body!

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