April 15, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

This article by Polly Dean was voted runner-up in Imperial College's Spring 2022 I, Write competition, the science journalism contest organised by I, Science magazine for students in Years 10-13.

By Polly Dean

The well-known phrase “jumping for joy” perfectly ties together the theme of joy and the sport Trampolining. Joy, a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, can be activated through a variety of different hormones; chemicals that are produced in glands that travel to their target cells via blood. Hormones control several physiological reactions in the body including energy metabolism, reproductive processes and tissue growth. They are constantly released during exercise. 

Evie, aged sixteen, has been part of the competitive Trampoline club Rock Steady Crew for over ten years. “Sport can provide a source of endless joy,” she says. “It helps me to remain strong and disciplined both physically and mentally. Training in a competitive sport is an act of balance; there is the competition for success, the joy of victory and, of course, the disappointment of defeat. There is no substitute for sport, in particular Trampolining, whether it is the emotions felt, the friendships made, the physical skills developed or even the hormones released that activate ‘natural high’ sensations.” 

Since making its Olympic debut in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Trampolining has increased in popularity. In 2021, it was recorded that over 110,000 people in England participated in Trampolining and Gymnastics. Trampolining is both a recreational and competitive sport suitable for all ages and requires excellent balance, power, flexibility and coordination. Whilst bouncing up and down, competitors perform various acrobatic movements varying in complexity. A trampoline sequence may include simple jumps in a straight, tuck, pick or straddle position. It can progress to more complex skills such as forwards and backwards somersaults and twists.  

Trampolining offers a variety of physical health benefits, helping to develop fine motor skills. The sport has been proven to increase fitness. This may be achieved through pushing further into the bed of the trampoline, which strengthens quadricep muscles, improves the height reached in the air, and engages abdominal muscles to maintain balance. When in the air in a piked or straddle position, reaching further for your toes increases overall flexibility. “Every time I’m on the trampoline I try pushing myself further into the bed so that I can gain more height and consequently better execute my skills,” Evie says. “To do this, I need to constantly contract the muscles in my legs to get more power. In addition, swinging my arms up to my ears with quick speed helps me to gain more height.”  

The up-and-down motion caused by jumping moves the fluid in your lymphatic system fifteen times faster than at rest, helping with the circulation of toxins from the lymph ducts to the liver, kidneys and eventually out of your body, decreasing your likelihood of disease and illness. When trampolining, you land on a soft, low-impact surface which absorbs up to 80 percent of the stress of your weight-bearing joints, making the sport safe and a suitable option for seniors and those who are recovering from injuries. 

Trampolining can also help to improve your mental health. “Trampolining acts as a fantastic distraction when I am stressed or have had a bad day,” says Evie. “I’ve learnt from my mistakes: when on the trampoline I have to focus on the skills and not any other current problems, otherwise I will end up flying onto an end deck.” The feeling of jumping on a trampoline, whether it be a large outdoor trampoline or a small portable rebounder, releases hormones which make it an enjoyable and exciting experience. These “happy” hormones include endorphins, serotonin and dopamine.

When any of these hormones are released, they carry the chemical message from a group of cells that are specialised to secrete hormones to the receptor on the target cells. When the hormones bind to their receptor, a signalling molecule is produced which activates a cascade inside the cell, making you feel happy and achieve that ‘natural high’ and euphoric sensation. When first starting trampolining, it is easy to learn all the basic skills and to get a massive sense of achievement and enthusiasm. When executing a skill perfectly, not only do you feel a sense of happiness, but your coach also feels proud and joyful. 

 Although many happy emotions are felt at a Trampolining session – whether from learning a new skill, completing a polished high-quality routine, or socialising with your friends – like all sports, there are challenges and mental blocks that need to be overcome. “A few years ago I had a mental block with a skill called a full,” says Evie. “It involves completing a 360-degree rotation in a straight position whilst somersaulting backwards. When attempting to execute this skill I kept on getting lost in the air; this scared me, and I was too nervous to attempt it again. Since then, I have gradually gained more confidence. This has been achieved through mentally performing the skill, speaking to my coaches about my worries, and speaking to other people at my club who can complete the skill.” 

Trampolining can also help to improve social health. When not on the trampoline, you are around the edges spotting the current person bouncing, developing teamwork and co-operation skills. Although it is important to remain focused when spotting, it allows you the chance to socialise with others and make new friends. “Through trampolining, I believe I have made lifelong friends that I plan to always keep in contact with,” says Evie. “There have always been role models that I look up to at the club. They are friendly and aways able to give me advice. It is also a safe environment to speak to my coaches about any of my worries; I find this very reassuring and comforting.”   

Although joy is often felt when trampolining, other emotions can also be experienced. Many get nervous or stressed at competitions; the competitors, spectators and coaches. “Through the years, I have better adapted to competition environments, but like most people I always feel a bit nervous when I first arrive,” says Evie. “It is important to remain calm and focused; this can be done through speaking to your friends, mentally rehearsing your routine or listening to relaxing music.”

Overall, Trampolining offers a large range of physical, mental and social benefits. It is an inclusive and increasingly popular sport that releases a large range of hormones, helping to achieve joyful sensations and emotions. “Trampolining and jumping for joy is such a unique, exhilarating sport,” says Evie. “I believe everyone would benefit from it if they participated, whether this is physically, mentally or socially.”