Philipp von Kunhardt’s interest in health and wellness is no surprise given that he grew up with a father who was a world champion pentathlete — but Philipp faced struggles that left his own fitness abilities in jeopardy.
At the age of five, a series of hip surgeries left him in a body cast and resulted in a period of recuperation where he had to relearn how to walk. He was told that he would never play sports or dance, but his parents (who are also both authors and lecturers in the fields of preventative health and fitness) refused for this to be his life’s trajectory.
One of his secrets to recovery? Trampolines.
It was a natural transition for Philipp to find himself in the fitness industry. He co-founded bellicon AG in Switzerland, and later launched bellicon USA, to bring his positive, restorative experience with trampolines to other people, providing a wide range of wellness benefits.
Beth Doane: Your own early struggles and experiences with health have been very foundational. How did you overcome your challenges to eventually run a company?
Philipp von Kunhardt: My parents were determined to see that my life wouldn’t be so constrained by what the surgeon said and began getting me involved in regular physical activities. For example, on my birthday, they created a treasure hunt where I had to cross streams, climb trees, and it ended with a sack race. None of it was easy, but they turned the situation around for me. Ultimately, I became not just active but a competitive runner, with several biathlons and 5000-meter track gold medals to my credit.
I became aware of rebounding exercise in the early 90s through my father, who had learned about it through his involvement in preventative health beginning in the 80s. He’s the one that introduced me to the remarkable benefits of mini-trampoline exercise.
However, all the mini-trampolines in the 1990s were the same, small, spring-based trampolines that had glutted the world market in the 1980s, and you can still find today, which don’t perform well. So, in 1995, I designed the first fitness trampoline that used customized bungee cords instead of springs, and the improvements were immediately apparent. It increases fitness benefits while delivering a smoother, gentler, quieter, much more enjoyable experience.
Doane: Your company grew out of you reclaiming your fitness and wellbeing. What advice do you have for founders about balancing health, work and a personal life?
von Kunhardt: I come from a family that’s passionate about health and fitness, so the line between professional interest and personal enthusiasm has always been blurry. My parents, siblings, wife and children have all worked with bellicon in different ways over the years, though their primary occupations are in other areas.
I begin my day with exercise, eat healthy, fresh foods, and use any excuse to add fitness to my day: never take an elevator when you can take the stairs, using my bellicon with my standing desk while working to keep my body engaged, etc. I don’t do these things just because they’re “good for me,” I do them because I love the way they enhance my day. The long-term benefits are, of course, a huge bonus.
Doane: Running any company is not without its challenges, but how did COVID impact the wellness industry?
von Kunhardt: The pandemic has changed everything. People are much more dependent on getting their daily exercise from home. One of the unique benefits of rebounding exercise is that just about anybody can do it. For older adults, it’s an extremely low-impact exercise that also helps with issues like balance, bone density, lymphatic circulation, but for people looking to increase their athleticism, it can burn fat and increase cardiovascular fitness significantly faster than running.
Doane: What are three wellness tips that you consider most essential to daily life?
von Kunhardt: First, “everything in moderation.” Americans tend to perform extreme amounts of exercise or none at all. The benefits of moderate-intensity exercise, done regularly, are undeniable and much healthier for you. Second, find something you love to do. Whatever gets you out of your chair and moving is a good thing.
Finally, love yourself. The Bible says that we should love others the same way we love ourselves, but just loving ourselves can be a challenge. Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to show yourself some love because of its enormously positive impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Doane: What is your favorite quote?
von Kunhardt: “Treat your body well so that your soul is thrilled to live in it.” Teresa of Ávila.