fitness

Class Report: We try Sky Fit's Trampoline fitness class.

Image: iStock.

My first memories of a trampoline were in my grandmother’s living room circa 1984. Her tiny frame bounced from foot to foot atop a personal-sized rebounder (a small, round riff on a trampoline where you can’t do flips or stunts).

Rebounding became a serious fitness fad in the US after a 1980 NASA study (in the Journal of Applied Physiology) concluded a trampoline workout was superior and more efficient to jogging.

In the last 10 years trampolines have risen yet again from the ashes of fitness trends, like a bouncy Phoenix, in the form of the multi-million-dollar US trampoline arena industry. They’ve landed and proliferated on Australian shores too, bringing with them a new sort of trampoline-based fitness classes.

The current incarnation of Sky Fit launched in September 2015 and it seems people are truly jumping for fitness again (“membership numbers are building fast,” says program director Emily Steele), but not as my grandmother knew it.

"My first memories of a trampoline were in my grandmother’s living room circa 1984"

The number of people in the Sky Fit class I did at Alexandria’s Sky Zone tell me that it’s not just a few sad souls with bum joints, as I misguidedly thought it might be.

Instead it was a fully booked class of young folks. The vibe I got from the other class goers was refreshingly free from the air of dread and thousand-mile stares that typified the pre-class atmosphere at regular fitness classes I’d done before.

Initially I was hesitant to book a class here because I was terrified of sharing a giant trampoline littered with snotty children in various states of flight. But the space was mercifully child-free on a quiet Tuesday night – the only sounds were the music pumping over the loud speaker and encouraging words.

And we work out on a quilt of individual tramp pads divided by padded lanes – not a giant bouncy mosh pit. No doubt the weekends at this place are madder than Bedlam but on weekday nights it was basically a dedicated – delightfully air conditioned – gym space for Sky Fit. (Post continues after gallery.)

In terms of potential workout, Sky Zone quotes the NASA study on its site (“68 per cent more efficient than jogging”) and trampoline fanatics are quick to regale you with all the miraculous-sounding benefits of trampolining. Detox – that lightening rod of a word – your lymphatic system! Improve balance! Strengthen cells! Ease anxiety! Build muscle in less time! Get an aerobic workout in minutes! Eases joint pain! Helps autism!

Some claims aren’t necessarily back by studies – the whole detox and lymph thing, for example, is thin on the ground (or completely absent) where empirical evidence is concerned – and the strengthening and aerobic benefits clearly depend on the intensity and variability of your workout and your ease on a trampoline (which can be learned).

New York Times journalist and trampoline-for-fitness sceptic Gretchen Reynolds believes rebounding is about as taxing as an afternoon at the bowling lane. My sweat-soaked shirt, wobbling legs and shortness of breath after class say otherwise. Although, I’m sure she had light bouncing on a personal rebounder – grandma style – and not a destabilised HITT classes in mind.

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On top of all the potential fitness upsides (strength, stability et al) I was also drawn to trampolining by the chance to steal back a bit of the joy I used to feel while catapulting myself around a trampoline as a kid. As an adult, exercise had become a chore to the point where nothing could incentivise me to drag myself to the gym to exercise for exercise’s sake.

What had been missing was the fun. None of it was fun anymore. Candle light didn’t distract me from wanting to scratch out my eye balls while on a stationary bike for an hour. Ear-splitting music didn’t pep me up enough to keep from watching the clock during a penitent barre class. None of it was fun. All of it was work. I didn’t want exercise to be work on top of, you know, actual work and house work and whatever other work I have layered on top of that.

The 30-minute No Ifs, Just Butts class I bounced through started with lofty jumps to warm-up, alternating knees to chest before landing flat footed. Bounce, break down steps, squats, hold, squats, hold, lunges, hold, lunges, hold, all while wobbling around on a trampoline, using small muscles and my core to stabilise myself.

Steele says: “Through jumping, your body activates muscles it hasn't before. The unstable surface for stability work, the jump power for skills and the rebound effect for high intensity cardio. The unstable surface increases stability, spatial awareness, balance and mobility in joints.”

We do interval circuits, rinse and repeat. Squats with a medicine ball held afloat lit a fire in my thighs, bum, abs and arms. Star jumps with a band around the legs were pure abductor-burning joy.

I got a full body workout and an intense bit of cardio, “flukey fitness,” as Steele calls it. Most trampoline fitness programs claim a 1,000-calories-an-hour burn, but that number hasn’t been confirmed by any study or test (that I can find).

I’m sure it torches a few calories but that’s secondary to how brilliantly enjoyable it is to be back on a trampoline after decades (so long as you don’t count taking over a bouncy castle at the birthday parties of my friends’ kids).

The main takeaway for me was there is fun to be had in pursuit of keeping fit in the face of middle-age spread. I don’t have to trick myself into doing it. Or maybe you love being barked at while riding a bike to nowhere. To each his own. I could do with a bit of fun, and I found it here.

Sky Fit classes in particular are $15 for 30 or 45 minutes (or $19 a week for unlimited classes), although prices might range at different arenas.

Have you tried a trampoline class?

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