The rebounder trampoline is a popular exercise equipment. Readers ask me if using the rebounder trampoline will build bone density and improve skeletal health. They also ask if the rebounder is safe to use for someone with osteoporosis or low bone density and are there better exercise alternatives for someone to build bone density?
In today’s blog, I cover all of these questions and also discuss how NASA keeps its astronauts healthy and active while in space. Here is our agenda. Click on one of the links if you wish to jump forward to a specific section.
Over the years, a lot of readers ask me my opinion on rebounders and whether they improve bone density. I could never find enough evidence and literature to make it a worthwhile blog — until recently.
A reader in Quebec City shared with me that she has metastases from her cancer to her spine that have affected five of her vertebrae in her spine. She asked me if the rebounder a good option for her?
She specifically mentioned the Bellicon Rebounder.
The Bellicon Rebounder the reader suggested in her email has no external support. In addition, the movements demonstrated on the Bellicon website are wonderful if you have good bone density and a healthy spine.
But if you have had a spinal fracture, if you have poor balance, if you’re at a higher risk of a vertebral compression fracture, or as somebody who has metastases to their spine, I suggest you not use the rebounder.
The reason: the torquing and the instabilities that occur on an unstable surface are amplified on something like a rebounder.
Rebounder Support Handles
If you do not have a history of compression fractures, your balance is good, and you do not have a health issue such as cancer in the spine, then the rebounder is an option to consider. However, I encourage you to use it only if the rebounder has a handle for support.
Rebounder for Bone Density
The benefits of the rebounder for somebody that has osteoporosis, osteopenia or low bone density, are not convincing enough for me to support it as an exercise tool. There are no studies that looked specifically at bone building using a rebounder — more about this below.
Rebounder for Warm Up
However, if you currently own one, you can use it as an adjunct to your bone building program — either as a warm-up or balance device. For example, today you probably do a set of exercises on your rebounder trampoline. You can keep doing them (assuming that they are safe to do) but once you are done you should do strength training and weight bearing exercises to improve the health of your bones.
Rebounder for Balance
You can also use your rebounder when you do balance exercises. I recommend that you approach this carefully. A good place to start is with the Beginner level balance exercises in Exercise for Better Bones. Instead of doing them on the floor, do them on the rebounder.
I don’t like to discourage people from movement, I’m just encouraging you to choose wisely, exercise safely, and invest in exercises and activities that are worthwhile for your skeletal health.
Let’s look at several exercise alternatives to the rebounder.
There is a great alternative to using the rebounder trampoline. It’s free, it’s fun, and you can do it in the comfort of your home. There is even research showing that this activity improves bone density.
You do not have step up to an unstable surface, so your chance falling is lower, too!
It’s called Stomping and it is great for people with osteoporosis and building bone.
Stomping for Osteoporosis Studies
A team of researchers published a study in 2007 on the effects of foot stomping, exercise squats and line dancing on “proximal femoral bone mineral density, lower extremity strength, and static and dynamic balance.” (1)
The research team studied sedentary, postmenopausal, independent-living, Caucasian women. The women were not taking osteoporosis medications. The group of forty-five women were randomly assigned to three groups. All groups did a weekly line dancing class. Members of two of the other groups performed “progressively loaded squats five times per week. One group also performed four foot stomps, twice daily, five times per week.”
The researchers concluded “Line dancing, particularly in concert with regular squats and foot stomping, is a simple and appealing strategy that may be employed to reduce lower extremity bone loss, and improve lower limb muscle strength and balance, in independent living, otherwise healthy, postmenopausal Caucasian women.”
The team further noted that there was a “a strong stomp compliance” — meaning that when the people were given the stomping exercises, they reliably did them. Why? Probably because they were fun!
Another study compared jumping, stomping and heel drops exercises. The research team found that “the exercises with the highest impact (i.e., jumps and stomps) may provide sufficient stimulus to achieve skeletal overload.”
The authors went on to say that “stomping elicited higher forces than expected, with impact forces close to that of jumping. This concurs with data from Weeks and Beck (2008), who also reported stomping impact forces higher than those elicited by heel drops and similar to those of jumping.” (2)
How to Do Stomping for Osteoporosis
You can do stomping in your home or on your way to work. Imagine a big bug that you’re trying to kill. And so … Stomp!
Stomping is something that you throw into your day, maybe every time you’re about to go up the stairs. If you don’t have stairs then maybe cue yourself every time you’re going to leave the bathroom.
Pelvic Health and Stomping Tips
Think about your pelvic floor when stomping.
Like jumping, stomping creates forces on your pelvic floor. Be sure to counter act the forces by breathing in the following manner:
- Take a diaphragmatic breath in.
- Exhale by blowing through pursed lips, just as though you are blowing against a pinwheel.
- A tightening of your pelvic floor is encouraged by the blowing and it does not hurt to think about it as well.
- In between stomps, as you breath in, your pelvic floor should relax.
- Just remember to blow before you go … stomping or jumping.
- As you building your bones, you also support your pelvic floor.
Stomping for Osteoporosis Tips
Here are some additional tips to consider:
- You may wish to wear running or walking shoes when stomping.
- Like jumping or hopping, stomping should not be done if you are recovering from a compression fracture or have any spinal injury.
- Start small. Squish a “soft bug” and one or two repetitions and build from there.
- The impact from stomping is what builds bone.
- Make sure that when you’re stomping, that your knee lines up in the same direction that your second toe is pointing.
- If you’re going to point your foot out to the side, make sure your knee is going out to the side. It’s a bit odd to do your stomping that way, but make sure that both are lined up in the same direction and that you’ve incorporated your breath.
- Stomping requires balance. If your balance is challenged stomp while holding the railing or back of a sturdy chair. As your balance improves, hover your hand just above the support. This will allow you to build your balance at the same time.
- Stomping will also build strength in the muscles of the leg that supports. Be sure to keep your pelvis level as you lift your leg in preparation to stomp.
Unlike the rebounder, jumping and stomping are good for our bones. Plus, you can do it in a way that’s stable and safe.
In the studies that they looked at stomping, the foot is lifted off at least nine inches off the ground.
Consider stomping or jumping instead of a rebounder trampoline as part of your bone health program.
Before I sign off, I should address a popular topic related to trampoline use and its benefits. If you do a Google search on trampoline, you will likely find articles praising the health benefits of rebounders, particularly as they relate to preservation of bone density in NASA astronauts. We’ll cover this next section (following information on our free course).
Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis
Stomping is a great exercise to build bone. However, you need to do more than that if you have osteoporosis. An exercise program that incorporates balance, weight bearing, strength and flexibility training is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.
But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?
A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.
- Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
- Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
- Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
- Key principles of bone building.
- Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
- Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
- Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?
Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.
In 1980 Erno Rubik’s invention, the Rubik’s Cube was released, Mount St. Helens erupted, and a group of NASA researchers published a study comparing the biomechanical stimuli of jumping on a trampoline and running on a treadmill. (3)
It was a small study group of eight males between the ages of 19 and 26 years old. They followed a strict protocol for trampoline and treadmill use. The research team measured the effects of both on O2 uptake and musculature. They did not study the effect on bone.
The team found that “for similar levels of HR (heart rate) and VO2, the magnitude of the biomechanical stimuli is greater with jumping on a trampoline than with running.” Please remember that they were dealing with weightlessness.
They went onto say that this “finding … might help identify acceleration parameters needed for the design of remedial procedures to avert de-conditioning in persons exposed to weightlessness.”
NASA Protocol for Conditioning Astronauts
Naturally, the people at NASA found these results interesting. Perhaps they could use trampolines to maintain the physical condition of their astronauts?
If they did use trampolines, they no longer do. NASA uses more effective ways to keep the astronauts bones and muscles strong.
The NASA ARED Study
A study published in 2012 by NASA scientists stated “exercise has shown little success in mitigating bone loss from long‐duration spaceflight. The first crews of the International Space Station (ISS) used the “interim resistive exercise device” (iRED), which allowed loads of up to 297 lbf (or 1337 N) but provided little protection of bone or no greater protection than aerobic exercise.” (4)
This implies that the original technology, the iRED, was inadequate in maintaining bone density for log duration flights. If the iRED couldn’t do it, how could the trampoline?
In response, the NASA engineers upped the intensity of the training in 2008. “In 2008, the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), which allowed absolute loads of up to 600 lbf (1675 N), was launched to the ISS.”
This time the scientists found “that resistance exercise [with the ARED], coupled with adequate energy intake (shown by maintenance of body mass determined by dual‐energy X‐ray absorptiometry [DXA]) and vitamin D, can maintain bone in most regions during 4‐ to 6‐month missions in microgravity. This is the first evidence that improving nutrition and resistance exercise during spaceflight can attenuate the expected BMD deficits previously observed after prolonged missions.”
In conclusion, NASA has adopted weight bearing activities, specifically the ARED, as the path to bone preservation and not rebounding.
Resistive Exercise in Astronauts on Prolonged Spaceflights
As I mentioned earlier in this post, NASA uses the ARED to suppress bone loss during extended space flights. Recent research published by NASA engineers and scientists indicates that they continue to refine their bone health protocol for astronauts in space.
A research study published in the journal, Bone, by NASA examines the comparative bone loss in two groups of astronauts. One group only used the ARED exercise program while the second group used a combination of ARED with the bisphosphonate alendronate.
The NASA research team found that the group that combined the bisphosphonate alendronate with the ARED training was more successful in arresting bone loss during flight when compared to the ARED only group. The researchers concluded that “a bisphosphonate, when combined with resistive exercise, enhances the preservation of bone mass because of the added suppression of bone resorption in trabecular bone compartment not evident with ARED alone.”
Again there is no mention of rebounders or mini-trampolines in the NASA exercise protocol for astronauts.
[August 2019 Update]
Like Exercise for Better Bones
At the Interdisciplinary Symposium on Osteoporosis (ISO) 2014, I had the pleasure hearing Nicole Stott, Astronaut, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) speak of their conditioning in space. The astronauts exercise two hours per day with a special piece of equipment called a Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED).
Exercises include resistive strength training exercises such as squats, heel raises, dead lifts and press. They are also harnessed onto a treadmill and must run an hour each day while in space. She laughed as she said they came back to earth in better physical conditioning than when they left.
Many of these exercises are part of the Exercise for Better Bones program. Fortunately, you can do Exercise for Better Bones here on earth and you don’t need expensive gear designed by NASA engineers.
Flying Astronauts, Rebounders and NASA
I carefully read the 1980 article by the NASA researchers and I searched up and down for how trampoline jumping enhanced or preserved bone density in the young men in the study. I also searched NASA’s website.
Ultimately, I was unable to find any reference to this outcome, so I am not sure why there are articles by trampoline manufacturers that jump to the conclusion and proclaim that rebounders benefit bone health.
The rebounder trampoline is less beneficial than earth-bound stomping, jumping, squats and other strength training exercises.
The Path to Good Health and Strong Bones
A final observation is that NASA continues to work very hard to find ways to preserve the health of their astronauts. Their exercise protocol is quite demanding and involves a high degree of coaching and instruction. It should not come as a surprise to the reader that the path to good health (including bone health) has no short cuts — both in space and here on earth.
Conclusion and Recommendation
There are activities you can do that will be better for your bones than jumping on a rebounder trampoline. You will also avoid the risk of falling off the trampoline and breaking a bone.
You could use it as a device to warm up for your exercise program but make sure that the rebounder has sturdy handles that you can hold in case you lose your balance.
For more information, check out my Osteoporosis Guidelines.
Rebounder Trampoline image: “https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rebounder01.jpg”
Line Dancing and Stomping image: “https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnysilvercloud/16669725732”
- Young, CM, et al. Simple, novel physical activity maintains proximal femur bone mineral density, and improves muscle strength and balance in sedentary, postmenopausal Caucasian women. Osteoporosis International. 2007 Oct;18(10):1379-87. Epub 2007 Jun 16.
- McNamara, AJ, et al. Meeting Physical Activity Guidelines Through Community-Based Group Exercise: “Better Bones and Balance”. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 2013, 21, 155-166
- Bhattacharya A, et al. Body acceleration distribution and O2 uptake in humans during running and jumping. Journal of Applied Physiology 1980; 49(5):881-887
- Smith SM, et al. Benefits for bone from resistance exercise and nutrition in long‐duration spaceflight: Evidence from biochemistry and densitometry. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. First published: 01 May 2012.
- Sibonga J. Et al. Resistive exercise in astronauts on prolonged spaceflights provides partial protection against spaceflight-induced bone loss.. Bone. 2019 Aug 7. pii: S8756-3282(19)30287-X. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2019.07.013. [Epub ahead of print]