Quick Poll: Have you picked up a jump rope since grade school? I recently found myself in a boot-camp-fitness situation in a sweaty muscle gym (first bad sign) that incorporated the playground staple — and I couldn't fathom why I had ever found it a recess-worthy activity. Pathetically stumbling and tripping through the workout, I was shocked at how difficult it was, and after, I slunk out, dejected. (Did I just pay for this humiliation?) But at another class I attended later that week, I found myself bouncing around again — this time on a trampoline — and had quite the opposite experience: I don't think I've ever had so much fun exercising since, well, grade school.
Evidently, I'm not alone. It seems the nation has suddenly become smitten with the simple act of jumping up and down. "Trampoline parks," fitness/play centers for the whole family, are cropping up all over the country. One major chain, Sky Zone Sports, has recently opened 18 of them, with 10 more scheduled to roll out in cities like Dallas and Cleveland over the next year. We'll be watching trampoline gymnastics at the Olympics in London this summer, and innovative new classes on rebounders (those mini personal trampolines) are springing up at boutique fitness studios from coast to coast. In L.A., there's On the Rebound at the ESP Wellness Center (espwellnesscenter.com) and Jump at Ballet Bodies (balletbodies.com); in New York City, there's Trampoline Yoga at Shen Tao (shentaostudio.com) and Bari Bounce at Bari Studio (thebaristudio.com).
Here's why this seemingly juvenile trend is a very, very good thing for everyone involved: 1) A trampoline workout is easy on the joints; people with sports injuries and other issues are protected by the low-impact cushion of the net. 2) It's detoxifying. Jumping up and down stimulates the lymphatic drainage system, which is why experts at the world-famous We Care fasting spa near Palm Springs — where stars go to drop 5 to 10 pounds fast — recommend their tony clients jump on mini trampolines throughout their stays. 3) It's accessible. Besides all the trampoline parks opening up everywhere, anyone can purchase a relatively affordable rebounder (about $40) and sneak in a few bounces during TV hour. 4) It's also highly efficient. Studies show that jumping on a trampoline burns about 20 percent more calories than jogging at five miles per hour. And according to Parvati Shallow, teacher of ESP Wellness Center's new trampoline class, six minutes on the rebounder can equal one mile of jogging. And did I mention it's really, really fun?
Addicted to the feeling of flying through the air with the greatest of ease, I hightail it to Bari's Bounce class, where I first got hooked. Co-owners Alexandra Perez and Brice Andrew Hall, a trainer who has worked with Madonna, claim Bounce further improves on the already propitious trampoline workout. "People need cardio [like running] in their workout routines, but we found too many clients were prone to shin splints, foot problems, and other issues that interfere with exercise," says Perez. "For Bounce, we've choreographed strategic sequences on the trampoline that activate more muscles — and in different ways — to burn more calories and engage you cognitively, so you also benefit in areas like strength, balance, and coordination." In other words, clients find themselves doing a lot more than simply bouncing on the spot, and it translates to maximum results. During the class, we learn dance-y routines that require quick thinking and take us up, down, and all around the trampolines; plus we pull resistance bands hanging from the ceiling, squeeze exercise balls between our legs, and perform interval push-ups and other strength-training exercises off the side of the thing (which makes for some serious core work). It's exhausting but enjoyable, and you can immediately feel how full-bodied the workout is. While just jumping on a trampoline still packs major benefits, the new versions of rebounding workouts are on speed.
The other day, I received an invitation to check out NYC's Sex and the City — famous trapeze school. But unlike Carrie Bradshaw, I'm not sure heights are my style (unless I'm flying first class, that is). Luckily, they also now offer a Big Top — style trampoline class, which instantly transports me back to childhood, jumping around in a neighbor's yard at dusk with that feeling of pure, unadulterated joy. Sounds like a perfect workout high.