Don't run. Bounce. You'll get fit faster, with far less risk of injury, say enthusiasts.
"Rebound exercise is the most efficient, effective form of exercise yet devised by man," claimed Albert E. Carter, a former professional wrestler who wrote a book about it in 1979. A NASA study a year later essentially confirmed his claim.
The NASA scientists took measurements of eight young men as they walked, jogged and ran on a treadmill, then had them jump on a trampoline.
"The external work output at equivalent levels of oxygen uptake were significantly greater while trampolining than while running," the NASA scientists said. "The ratio of oxygen consumption was sometimes more than twice as efficient as treadmill running."
When you jump on a trampoline, the force of gravity on your ankles, back and forehead is evenly distributed, but when you run on a treadmill, the G-force on the ankles typically is twice as great, the NASA researchers found. This can lead to shin splints and knee problems.
Carter and his family were regular users of a trampoline, but did little else in the way of exercise. They discovered they were stronger, fitter and better balanced than other people they knew who exercised more.
In his book "The Miracle of Rebound Exercise," Carter referred to the writings of the late C. Samuel West, an Arizona chemist and lymphologist in the field of naturopathic medicine. He wrote that "rebound exercise" uses three powerful forces -- gravity, acceleration and deceleration -- not available in more conventional forms of cardiovascular exercise. West said it proves the body's lymphatic system gets a boost, as well.
At first, rebound exercise just meant jumping on a trampoline. Rebounding shoes expand the exercise options available. A popular brand is Kangoo Jumps -- fitness shoes with a boot-like ankle support attached to a rebounding platform.
They were easy to adjust, stable and very comfortable," said a reviewer for the American Council on Exercise. "Although they felt clunky and heavy at first, it took only a few minutes before finding balance. During a 30-minute run, the rebounding action provided significant shock absorption compared to mainstream running shoes. Overall, this product is an effective training tool that infuses an ordinary workout with fun and excitement," the ACE reviewer said.
The University of British Columbia studied 25 novice runners -- 13 who wore normal running shoes and 12 who wore Kangoo Jumps -- for 12 weeks in 2002. The Kangoo runners increased their peak oxygen uptake by 18.2 percent; the regular runners just 3.7 percent. More significantly, 42.8 percent of the control group suffered lower leg injuries during the test period. There were no injuries among the Kangoo Jumpers.
The downside of Kangoo Jumps is their price. The Kangoo Jumps' website offers four models, ranging in price from $179 to $299.
"We like to be on top of group fitness waves," said Rory Lazear, who with her partner, Lorie Elias, owns the bFit Studio in the Pittsburgh area, and rents the shoes to class participants. "Kangoo Jumps are fun. That's one of the main things in group exercise."
Lazear and Elias discovered Kangoo Jumps on the Internet and trained with celebrity trainer Mario Godiva Green, who says you'll burn 25 percent to 50 percent more calories if you wear them in an exercise class instead of sneakers, but you won't feel as tired.
"People who are larger or overweight will feel light on their feet and experience mega calorie burn without feeling pain in their joints the next day," Green said.
"You definitely can go more anaerobic in Kangoo," Lazear said, referring to intense, short-burst exercise that builds strength. "It engages your core much more because you are in an unstable surface. You have to engage your core to stay upright."