For many people who suddenly had to switch to remote work, the one-year work-from-home anniversary is coming up fast. A year in, workers are still trying to figure out the best home-office setup. Some of us have graduated from couch to desk. Others, concerned about too much sitting, switched to standing desks. But one company says even standing is not enough to combat our sedentary lifestyles. The solution? Trampolines, apparently.
Bellicon is a maker of mini-trampolines, or “rebounders,” principally for fitness workouts known as rebounding. But the company has also tried to make trampolines a central part of work well-being. For office workers, that could mean taking breaks from the desk to rebound or, better yet, working at a standing desk while constantly bouncing.
This isn’t about turning us into full-fledged trapeze artists and the office into Cirque du Soleil. It’s about small exertions, allowing us to continue bouncing for hours. “Rebounding is like an environment,” says John Hines, Bellicon USA’s director of communications. He says to think of it like being in a pool and gently paddling. “I could sit here all day if I was just sort of paddling around, floating about.”
It’s a reaction against our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, which our hunter-gatherer ancestors would supposedly have found unnatural, “10,000 years ago, when lunch meant charging meals with a spear instead of a credit card,” reads Bellicon’s workplace brochure. “What we’re really trying to do,” Hines says, “is get back a portion of the activity we would have had 200 years ago, and then 10,000 years ago. Nobody sat for hours a day unless you were dying. We essentially act like we’re seriously ill or dying.”
Before the pandemic, Bellicon was on a mission to persuade workplaces to rid themselves of the desk chair, which it calls “the most dangerous device in your office,” and replace them with mini-trampolines. It suggests different configurations: mini-trampolines at each desk in an open-plan environment; meeting rooms with trampolines around a table; perhaps rebound stations so employees can fit in a quick “micro-workout” while the coffee is brewing or they’re on the way to the bathroom. Now, it’s even easier to set them up in a home office. They’re lightweight and small enough to stow away at the end of the workday.
Hines laments that the pitch to offices never took off—a shame, because of the many fitness benefits. “It’s really unknown,” he says. “It’s not in the canon of exercises.” Many resources agree rebounding is good for conditioning: It engages many muscle sets and gives a good cardio workout with the potential to burn fat. Besides, in Hines’s personal experience, it’s simply a “euphoric,” mood-boosting experience. He says he felt less lethargic and more productive when he used his rebounder regularly at the office. “I felt there was a spring—we use bungees—but there was a spring in my step,” he says.
The company claims a long list of additional health benefits, starting with improvements in bone strength, which has some scientific support, and it touts its endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association. Other weighty claims include: “Gentle g-forces dramatically increase lymphatic circulation, cleansing your body of toxins, viruses and bacteria”; “lubricates joints and reduces symptoms of arthritis”; “boosts your metabolism and circulates oxygen to your brain more efficiently than anything else.” While a handful of studies found some tenuous evidence for these claims, there’s little consistent scientific support overall.
A NASA study published during the height of the “rebounding craze” of the early ’80s is the most frequently cited by pro-bouncers. It showed that physical output was greater from jumping on a trampoline than running, thanks in part to the g-force. But a 2015 New York Times health column said newer studies have disagreed with that conclusion. “By most estimates,” wrote the columnist, Gretchen Reynolds, “rebound exercise is, at best, aerobically mild, requiring less effort than bowling and about the same as playing croquet.” (Reynolds did not list any sources for this assertion.)
Still, the company is insistent on its claims that rebounding “protects you from disease,” making a financial argument that businesses can therefore save on healthcare costs. Bellicon claims average healthcare costs at about $12,800 per employee per year and cites an average of 14 sick days. If rebounding “counteracts the multitude of health problems,” then investing in a trampoline pays dividends, it says. The Bellicon workplace model is priced at $459, less than the cost of two sick days per employee, which it estimates at $720.
For now, the company is still working on getting the message out—which includes eradicating one of the sticking points. “The biggest problem is that a fitness trampoline looks like a child’s toy,” Hines says. “A lot of people can’t get past that, and they don’t realize that what they’re really seeing is a gravity-generating device.”