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.
Does the Rebounder Build Bone?
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 and Bone Density
There are few benefits of rebounding for somebody with osteoporosis, osteopenia or low bone density. What few there are 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.
However, before you use the rebounder for balance training, I encourage you to determine your level of balance and identify the appropriate balance training exercises. A good place to start is my Balance and Fall Prevention Exercise Workouts available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo.
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.
Stomping Feet for Osteoporosis
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.
How Effective is Stomping for Osteoporosis?
A reader of the blog recently contacted me and asked: “I have read a couple of articles on the effectiveness of foot stomping in increasing bone density in the femur and hip areas. Is this as effective as jumping from a stool with a weighted vest, or would it be more beneficial to incorporate both of them into my exercise regime?”
Good question. Here is my answer. Before deciding on the effectiveness of this (or any exercise), we have to take into consideration someone’s general health (hip, knees, ankles, balance, etc) and their fracture risk.
The foot stomp is a safer exercise (compared to jumping from a stool with a weighted vest) based on the parameters I mentioned above. However, stomping does not produce as great of an impact as jumping and is, therefore, not as effective when it comes to bone building.
If you want to do jumps to build bone, please be sure to read this blog post to ensure you progress your jumps safely.
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.
I cover important topics related to osteoporosis exercise including:
- 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.
NASA, Rebounder Trampolines and Bone Density
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]
Rhea Van Breda says
Thank you for this information. I do have a question. You suggest stomping or jumping. Because of my knees and a weak pelvic floor, I have difficulty doing either. But I figure that a rebounder has a much softer landing, and works for me much better than jumping. The question is: if jumping and stomping are good, why would rebounding not be as good? The rebounder that I have does have a support to hold on to as I jump. Here is an article I found regarding rebounding and osteoporosis.
Beverley Clark says
Thanks for this useful information. I will add “bug stomping” into my daily dog walks! Additionally, for the past year I have begun to incorporate a Pilates Jumpboard class into my regular routine. This year I have seen some small improvements in my Z scores, but of course I have made multiple changes so it is hard to know what has made the difference. It is reassuring to know that there is research on the jumping and stomping and I would love to know if you are familiar with any research regarding Jump Pilates. For those who haven’t tried it, it is great core and cardiovascular exercise too!
Susan Johnson says
Thank you for this article. Stomping or jumping are so easily incorporated into my day. Nice to have easy, effective exercises I can add in any time!
PATRICIA MARINELLI says
Hi I don’t have a rebounder, but I do have a Total Gym. Do you know if the Total Gym is good for bone strengthening?
Richard Martin says
Hi Patricia. Thanks for following us and your comments. Margaret wrote about the Total Gym in this blog post. About half way into the post she talks about the equipment. What she likes and would like changed. She also suggests alternatives. https://melioguide.com/osteoporosis-exercises/weight-training-and-osteoporosis/
Alison Lerner says
I have very little padding on the bottom of my feet, also arthritic knees. Is there any way to do stomps or something equivalent?
Thanks for your wonderful blogs.
My fractures are in the thoracic region which is also where my osteoporosis is worse. What excercise can I do to build that bone area?
Frances McCrea says
Thank you for your information on stomping, I will be sure to add it to my exercise practice. I am presently having physio on my back, my physiotherapist feels that the best exercises for osteoporosis are using exercises bands, a study was done at MacMaster Univerisity and a program called Osteo-Circuit was started – I am interested to know how you feel about exercise bands. Fran
So is the stomping okay if I’ve already had a compression fracture?
Thank you for this blog. Very helpful. I can see that stomping may have more functions than helping the bones….venting frustration, making firm resolutions, grounding fanciful thoughts, etc.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Carrie, If I had to make a blanket decision of yes or no I would say no to air on the side of caution. Having said this, I have clients who have had a compression fracture who stomp and jump but have demonstrated to me that they can stomp and jump with good knee and spinal alignment. Other factors that come in deciding to stomp or not to stomp is the how and why you obtained your compression fracture should also be considered (flying over the handle bars of your bicycle versus putting down a laundry basket). It is ideal to have your Physical Therapist/ Physiotherapist with knowledge in Osteoporosis and Exercise weight the advantages and disadvantages of any exercise in assisting you in choosing the best.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Marianne, Thank you for shedding a bright light on the topic. You brought a smile to my face. Wishing you all the best,
Margaret Martin says
Hi Fran, Since you are presently working with a Physiotherapist for your back I would advise you to share the information with them so they can advise you whether stomping would be advisable for your back at this time. As far as I am aware Osteo-Circuit was actually born out of a Physiotherapy clinic in Toronto. A small study was conducted showing that individuals who participated in the circuit improved in health parameters including balance but no bone building changes were assessed. As far as bands, I only like to use them for a short while until individuals can progress to body resistance or weight resistance exercises. I do have two band exercises in the Beginner Level of Exercise for Better Bones to allow individuals to build up to the Active Level.
I wish you a quick recovery and a stronger back.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Janet, Thank you for your question. If you are unable to work with a local Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist then I would recommend you purchase Exercise for Better Bones and begin with the Posture exercises. Once you have progressed through the Posture exercises you can move to Beginner Level Strength. Under every strength exercise there is an indicator identifying whether it targets the bones of your spine, hips or wrist or a combination of them. This will help you to prioritize which exercise to focus on. Keep in mind that your posture when you move, sit and stand throughout the day is equally as important as the exercises you do. There is plenty of information about this in the book.
Wishing you all the best,
Margaret Martin says
Hi Alison, Thank you for your praises on my blogs. You have me scratching my head. I would certainly recommend that you wear supportive shoes with your stomping and that you begin very slowly as in 1 a day for a week. Week two, two a day, one in the am the other in the pm. Week three stomp before each meal…if your feet tolerate it build up to stomping on the hour. You will be your own clock bell. 🙂
As you progress you might find that your feet and knees tolerate a certain number of stomps a day but no more. Then stay at that level for a few weeks and see if you can progress more slowly or be pleased that you made it that far!
As far as your knees, be sure that your alignment is healthy. Your knee should always point in the same direction that your second toe is pointing in. Wishing you much success.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Beverley, You’re welcome. I love your idea of adding your bug stomp into your dog walks!
I do not know anything at all about a Pilates Jumpboard other than Joseph Pilates would probably find it odd that they are using his name on things so far removed from what he developed. I will look into it. Thank you for letting me know about it. I am glad you enjoy it.
Leora Friedman says
thanks for the stomping although this seems to aggravate my osteoarthritis in my knees. What is your opinion regarding the aeropilates rebounder- you lie supine and and push off the trampoline that is vertical to the ground. Resistance is adjusted with cords. Fall potential is eliminated. Thank you for your guidance and making your expertise available.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Leora, I do not know anything at all about a aeropilates rebounder other than Joseph Pilates would probably find it odd that they are using his name on things so far removed from what he developed. I will look into it. Thank you for letting me know about it. I am glad you enjoy it.
Leora Friedman says
thanks so much. I believe the same type of rebounder configuration can be attatched to the “total gym” apparatus. Much appreciate your expertise and willingness to help us (the community at large).
Great information….but I have a question. If jumping and stomping onto a hard surface like concrete or asphalt is recommended, then it seems to me that gentle bouncing on a rebounder would be even better due to the almost zero hard impact. Why is the very low impact of a rebounder considered “bad” when the much higher impact of jumping or stomping is beneficial? Seems counter-intuitive to me!
Margaret Martin says
Hi David. Thank you for asking to clarify the blog for you.
The very low impact of a rebounder is not considered “bad” if you are concerned about the health of your joints, your cardiovascular fitness, your balance and your general enjoyment of movement.
However, the very low impact of a rebounder is considered insufficient to stimulate bone building.
Impact provides the stimulation needed for building bone. The ground reaction forces provide the stimulation up through the feet and the leg bones to the hip. The harder the landing force, the more the bones to respond to the forces.
Forces should not be so great that we fracture. For example, jumping off a one foot high surface is not appropriate for individuals if their bones have not adapted.
Progressive loading is recommended because it allows someone to gradually build their bone strength.
Since the rebounder is more gentle than jumping on the floor, it may be perfect for someone who has not been walking regularly or at a pace beyond a “comfortable walk”. However, once you have the fitness level to walk more briskly, you will surpass the ground reaction forces that are created on the rebounder.
Here’s a blog expanding the concept:
Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year.
Kavin Nelson says
I agree with your assessment. This is an excellent article on limited benefits of mini trampolines and rebounders on bone health.
Many thanks Margaret, this is so helpful. Purely in terms of strengthening a weak pelvic floor – does the rebounder have merits over stomping? My mum is in her 70s and wants to avoid needing an operation so we thought she could use this as low impact exercise (she has arthritic knees) to improve her pelvic floor which is her biggest issue.
Margaret Martin says
Hi Katie, I am not the right person to ask your question: “Purely in terms of strengthening a weak pelvic floor – does the rebounder have merits over stomping?” I do not stay up dot date on pelvic floor studies the way I do Osteoporosis studies. It is a question for an experienced Pelvic Health Physiotherapist to address. For waht it is worth, my personal opinion is that depending on how aggressively she is bouncing the gravitational pull on her pelvic floor is likely greater with rebounding than it is with stomping. Having had two vaginal births, episiotomies and forceps my pelvic floor can deal with stomping better than it can with jumping. I hope she is working with a pelvic floor Physiotherapist.
Kenneth Smith says
Rebounding is a proven way to burn calories and fat, and tone muscle across the body. As a total body exercise, every part of the body receives a workout during rebounding, promoting the burning of calories and fat deposits.
Richard Martin says
The point of the article is to clarify the misconception (seemingly promoted by rebounder manufactures) that rebounding builds bone. There is no evidence supporting that (including the mentioned NASA study). It might be a good exercise but there are many ways to achieve what you claim without spending money on a rebounder.