Trampolines are a popular feature in backyards and gyms, attracting people of all ages to bounce, bounce and defy gravity for even a few minutes of weightlessness. Trampolines were originally invented to train astronauts and develop skills in sports such as diving, freestyle skiing and gymnastics. But it wasn’t long before the thrill of bouncing took over and trampoline became a mainstay as a fun, playful and even professional sport.
The Olympics introduced the trampoline event in 2000, where gymnasts soar more than 26 feet in the air while twisting and turning their bodies in intricately choreographed formations. These trampolinists are high-level athletes with exceptional balance and control. For others, using a trampoline is a source of fun physical activity that can be done in fitness class or at home.
With the increasing use of trampolines in fitness, their potential health effects have been studied. It goes without saying that trampolines can provide a good cardio workout. However, some proponents take it a step further and claim that trampolines can also detoxify the body and activate the lymphatic system.
Not surprisingly, this concept was born around the same time the sport was introduced to the Olympics. Here, we dig into these detox claims, examine the evidence, and clarify the role of the lymphatic system.
Can jumping on a trampoline help cleanse the body?
Detoxification is a buzzword in the health and fitness world, and the market for detox equipment, goods and accessories is estimated to be over $56 billion. The claim that trampoline training supports detoxification is based on the fact that recovery enhances the elimination of toxins for clearer skin, effortless weight loss and redness waste and infections.”
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and helps the body fight infection, says Reid Maclellan, MD, founder and CEO of Cortina and an adjunct faculty member at Harvard Medical School. In this system, lymph fluid carries waste products, viruses, bacteria, and other parts to help the immune system recognize and fight disease. Alternative health gurus believe that the lymphatic system needs help performing this task, especially for bouncing on a trampoline.
Proponents of the trampoline detox party argue that the lymphatic system lacks a pump, unlike the circulatory system. Although your heart pushes blood throughout your body, no other organ recycles the substances filtered by your lymph nodes. They claim that the rapid changes in gravity you experience from jumping on a trampoline causes the lymphatic vessels to dilate, resulting in better lymphatic circulation. But does science support this theory? Not so much.
While it’s true that the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, the body can still move fluid through it without a pump, says JB Kirby, DNP, MS, an acute care nurse with a background in oncology research.
The overlapping cells of the lymphatic vessels form one-way valves that allow fluid to enter but not exit when pressure builds up. This fluid moves through breathing and muscle action without a pump or other assistance.
A look at the research behind the detox claims
A 1980 NASA study forms the backbone of most trampoline weaning arguments. During this study, a group of NASA scientists tried to determine the ideal exercise that astronauts should do in a zero-gravity environment to prevent their hearts, muscles and bones from weakening.
The study focused on analyzing the acceleration of different body parts during certain exercises, says Kirby. “The study measured the speed of the astronaut’s movements during the jump, but they do not measure the movement of the lymphatic fluid.”
Therefore, this study does not show any benefit to the lymphatic system. Meanwhile, another small study was done in 2000 in people who had swelling in their legs and wore compression stockings, Kirby says. “This study measured how to remove a lymph node with massage, not trampolines.”
Finally, a small pilot study on leg swelling caused by lymphedema (a build-up of fluid in the body’s soft tissues) looked at whether certain exercises, including using a trampoline in water, could relieve it. This study was low-quality, uncontrolled, and only studied 11 participants, Kirby says. “So no, trampolines don’t clear lymph tissue, [according to any reputable research].”
The health benefits of a trampoline
Although the lymph node theory is not supported, there are other ways recovery can improve health and even support your body’s natural detoxification process, says Dr. Maclellan. Trampoline is a full body exercise that helps maintain overall health and exercise is an important part of the lymphatic system.” Here are some ways you can benefit from using a trampoline.
Muscle contraction and sweating move lymph fluid
Muscle contraction moves lymphatic fluid through the lymph nodes, Dr. Maclellan explains, so any exercise that causes muscle contraction can benefit the lymphatic system, including recovery.
Likewise, sweating from exercise and movement tends to help flush out toxins through the lymphatic system, says Carl Paige, MD, founder and CMO of the Medical Transformation Center in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s not a trampoline per se, but if it’s a vehicle that helps you get up and do something, then great.”
Rebounding burns calories and speeds up metabolism
When you bounce on a trampoline, you also burn calories and boost your metabolism by raising your heart rate, says Kirby. Any movement mobilizes body fluids and ultimately leads to weight loss, which is why some people think that jumping directly causes lymphatic mobilization.”
Cardio exercise lowers stress and cholesterol levels
Cardio training, such as jumping on a trampoline, also has many positive mental and physical health effects. These include everything from better blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels to reduced stress and anxiety and improved sleep quality.
But you don’t have to practice on the trampoline to reap the rewards. All types of cardio and resistance training support your lymphatic system and overall health, from running to weightlifting. Trampolines are just one, albeit very fun, way to achieve these goals.
The importance of a healthy lymphatic system
Keeping your lymphatic system healthy is critical to overall well-being. While your arteries bring oxygenated blood to your tissues and your veins remove it, your lymphatic system collects whatever leaks out or is left over from this exchange, explains Dr. Paige. When your tissue has blood delivered to it, what’s left behind are fluids, cells, waste, metabolic byproducts, and other things your body doesn’t need.”
According to Dr. Paige, if the mobility and function of your lymph nodes is poor, it affects your immune system, thymus, T-cell production and modulation. Your lymph nodes aren’t draining, which means you could be swollen or even experience severe forms of lymphedema, he says.
One key aspect of lymphatic health is the glymphatic system, which is a network of channels that help remove metabolic waste products that accumulate in empty spaces in the brain, Dr. Paige says. Ideally, this process happens every day, usually at night, when the position and recovery state of your sleep cycle allows your brain to move the lymph nodes and thus the ash away.”
Research suggests that the state of glymphatic health can affect inflammatory and central nervous system immune responses, says Dr. Paige. Research also links glymphatic activity to age-related cognitive decline, neurovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and the ability to heal brain injuries and tumors.”
How to Keep Your Lymphatics Healthy
Keeping your circulatory system in tip-top shape goes beyond trampoline training, says Kirby. Since the lymphatic system is part of the immune system, anything that supports the immune system also supports the lymphatic system.”
She suggests avoiding toxins like pesticides and cleaners, staying hydrated and exercising regularly. Eating a nutritious diet is also beneficial. If you’re healthy, your lymphatic system doesn’t need anything special beyond your consistent wellness habits (diet, hydration, exercise, sleep, stress reduction).
If you have a disease or condition that causes lymphedema, there are other safer and more effective ways to increase your lymph flow. Dr. Paige recommends swimming, massage, compression wraps, and avoiding restrictive clothing.
The Bottom Line? Bounce for fun, not detox
While long-standing claims that trampolines can help detoxify the body and activate the lymphatic system are intriguing, the evidence just isn’t enough to support them. All scientific signs point to trampolines being just another tool to enhance your movement.
However, adding trampoline training to your exercise routine is an effective and fun way to stay active. But it should be part of a larger approach to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
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