Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Why I Bounce - 2015 (ALS Exercise Tips)

1. I bounce because I have ALS.
2. I bounce because aerobic exercise is beneficial for people with ALS.
3. I bounce because my Dad made it possible.

Let me explain…

Did you know that billions of neurons are required just to lift one foot off the floor?

At the very moment you even consider this action motor neurons in your brain have already sent the message to motor neurons in your spinal cord, who relay it on to specific neurons deep in the muscles of your leg and foot, and - - your foot lifts up.  Incredibly this happens without much mental effort on your part. All day and every day, you depend on and take for granted this smooth coordination between billions of motor neurons and their associated muscle groups.

ALS causes motor neurons to slowly deteriorate. So when I think, “Pick up my right foot,” the messages sent down the line are garbled and often no message is sent at all. Unless I apply constant focused mental effort my right foot drags with each step I take.

Medical experts still don’t know what causes motor neurons to deteriorate. It’s frustrating because our bodies can’t regenerate or grow new ones.  However, good news is emerging. A growing number of research studies suggest that moderate aerobic exercise not only helps keep neurons plugged into muscles but helps to protect them from deterioration as well.[1] In addition, aerobic exercise boosts energy, removes damaged proteins and reduces neural inflammation. [2]

When I came across the statement, “There is no evidence that exercise is harmful to people with ALS,” made by Oxford University neurologist Martin Turner, MA PhD MRCP, I felt both relief and hope.

Throughout my career teaching wellness, I've been an advocate for aerobic exercise. In the 1980s, I had the opportunity to attend a training-certification program at the Aerobics Institute, Dallas, Texas, under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Cooper - - the very man who coined the term “aerobics!” It was an inspiring program and although we learned the scientific definition of what qualifies an exercise as aerobic, I always used an easier-to-understand version in my wellness classes:

“Make sure you’re huffing and puffing, your large muscle groups are working, you’re moving for at least 10-15 minutes, and - - at a pace where you can still carry on a conversation.”

Many options for PALS (People with ALS)

During the first few years following my diagnosis, I experimented with the variety of exercise equipment available in the workout room at our local recreation center: I pedaled the stationary bikes, pushed the recumbent steppers and pulled on the rowing machines. I even sloshed around in the pool outside; with water exercises and shallow water walking. Even though I favored one or two over the others I found all to be safe, easy and excellent aerobic exercise options for someone like me who has ALS.
But I wanted to BOUNCE!

You see, I was hard-wired to bounce. My father George Nissen, invented the modern trampoline and I grew up bouncing on trampolines!

"The Nissens" trampoline act - 1955

Throughout his life my father continued to invent, and during the last years of his life he designed a small rebound jogger with a unique safety hoop that encircled the bouncer. I even spent several years helping him promote his unique rebounder - - we found an appreciative market with the visually impaired, the physically handicapped and even aging baby-boomers.

George Nissen and Dagmar - 2009

My father passed away prior to my diagnosis, but I’m sure he’d be proud that his rebounder has been of exceptional benefit to me now that I live with ALS.

At first, I could only ‘soggy-jog’ about fifty steps every other day. But pretty soon I bounced through a whole song on the radio, and now with the help of peppy rock-n-roll music nearby I use the rebounder at least twenty-minutes a day.

I think of him every time I bounce!

Today, in honor of his birthday – I dedicate this video to my father, George Nissen.

Thanks, Dad!

UPDATE 12-17-2015
There is now a distributor in the UK  - - the model has been renamed, "B-Pod" and
is blue and white, but otherwise is similar to the one I use. Here is the link:


UPDATE 1-13-2016
The distributor for USA and Canada is:

X-L-ENT Care Products, Inc.


[2]  AAN 2014: ALS, Handle with Care  http://blogs.als.net/?tag=/exercise


  1. We all thank you George for the Trampoline. But, my special thanks to you for lovely Dagmar, my wonderful wife of over 34 years. She is an inspiration to all, and continues to have a great determination and zest for life living with ALS. Ron Munn

  2. Daggie....A beautiful birthday tribute to your father. He, indeed, while not wanting ALS to be part of your life, would be so delighted this last piece of his countless gymnastic designs, now could be assisting you in your exercise routines helping to keep you mobile. As usual, you have approached ALS with intelligence & determination, helping create ways to help yourself & other PALS live better lives with exercise routines. It has been a privilege to know your wonderful parents, you and Ronnie in my life. You are all true champions! As Ever...My Best,,,Andi

  3. Readers: there is now a distributor in the UK - - New Med Ltd. http://www.newmedltd.co.uk The rebounder has been renamed "B Pod" and aside from a color change, looks to be the same. An active link to New Med Ltd. has been added to this blog post.

  4. Readers: For those of you in the USA or Canada, the distributor to contact is: X-L-ENT Care Products, Inc., "Experts in Mobility, Multi-Sensory and Music Therapy." www.xlentcare.com An active link to X-L-ENT Care Products, Inc., has been added to this blog post.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts. They will be posted soon.