Let’s face it, cardio is a chore. Unless you’re a die-hard marathon runner, you’re probably not having any fun slaving away on the treadmill or circling the neighborhood for a few hours a week.
So when I learned out about the Bellicon Mini Trampoline, I was intrigued. Bouncing on a trampoline to work out? Heck yes. And it doesn’t have any springs: It eschews metal coils and instead uses individual super-elastic bungee cables to attach the trampoline platform to its frame.
The result is a pleasant, cushioned bounce that provides a surprising amount of air time. It’s fun, and if you actually take the time to use it regularly, you can work up a sweat and tone some muscles in the process. But if you’re expecting Jared-like weight-loss results, I’m afraid you won’t be able to ditch your gym membership just yet.
The Bellicon (which is technically called a “rebounder”) comes in three different sizes ranging from a 39- to a 49-inch diameter. Having tested the middle, the 44-inch model, I would definitely say bigger is better, as there’s not much room for error. If you get a bit over-exuberant (or just lose your balance a little), one big step and you’re off the trampoline. It’s not a big drop-off — you’re only 6 inches or so above the ground — but it’s enough that you could twist an ankle or crash into surrounding furniture if you fell off. Pro tip: Set it up away from furniture.
Bellicon teamed up with the New York studio Pilates On Fifth to produce a series of exercise videos that are available on Vimeo. Using these as a guide, you can develop a structured routine that works a variety of muscle groups in your legs and your core. If you’ve got dance or aerobics experience, you may be able to improvise your own workouts, but the online videos are a good place to start. (There’s also a workout DVD that comes with the trampoline.)
About five minutes into my first workout, my calves and glutes were already screaming for mercy — and I used to be a ballet dancer. You can also just do old standbys like walking, jogging, jumping jacks or just plain jumping, or add 3-5 lb arm weights to the mix for some upper-body action.
After a few weeks of regular use, I generally felt more energized. I didn’t lose any significant amount of weight (I didn’t really change my Mexican food- and beer-filled diet, though), but I did notice that my legs and abs in particular looked and felt stronger and more toned. My ankles also felt stronger from maintaining my balance on the supple jumping surface.
If you position the Bellicon near your desk at work or the home office, it’s a great way to burn a few calories and get an energy boost with short bouncing sessions throughout the day. And if you work out on the Bellicon Mini Trampoline for 30-plus minutes at a time, you will get a decent cardio workout. Whether that equates to weight loss or a trimmed waistline depends on the length and intensity of your sessions, and your current fitness level.
Overall, the Bellicon is a good at-home exercise option if you’re looking for something relatively low impact that won’t hog up half your living room space. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheap — the price is an alarming $630 for the smallest 39-inch version and a whopping $730 for the largest version. My loaner, the 44-incher, sells for $680. That’s about the same as a year’s worth of gym membership dues. Also a year’s worth of Ben & Jerry’s pints.
WIRED Easy to assemble. Super quiet. Bungee cords stretch up to three times their original length, and you can choose their strength depending on your weight and the type of exercises you plan to do most. Makes you actually look forward to working out.
TIRED Price, price, price. You can get a comparable 40-inch metal spring trampoline for an entire order of magnitude less.
Photo by Michael Lennon/Wired