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12 fantastic reasons to add jumping jacks to your workout routine

These are all the reasons you should be doing more jumping jacks

Shirtless man doing jumping jacks.
Westend61 / Adobe Stock

Each branch of the armed forces uses a simple bodyweight exercise to keep everyone in peak physical condition – they clearly understand the benefits of jumping jacks! While exercises like squats, push-ups, and pull-ups have their own benefits, jumping jacks can take a workout to a whole different level.

It might be a decade or more since you last did a round of jumping jacks, but this childhood favorite callisthenic exercise is not just child’s play — jumping jacks have plenty of health and fitness benefits for adults as well. Jumping jacks are easy to perform and accessible from anywhere you have a mere foot of space, require no equipment, and have the unique perk of bringing back nostalgic memories, making them feel as much like play as they are a workout. Keep reading for the top benefits of jumping jacks and why you should carve out a place in your workout routine for this tried-and-true classic exercise move.

Man doing jumping jacks
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1. Jumping jacks improve cardiovascular fitness

Jumping jacks increase heart rate and respiration, challenging your cardiovascular system. Completing extended sets of jumping jacks and progressing the duration of your sets will improve your aerobic fitness and endurance. Aim to move as fast as you can with good form, completing the full range of motion with each jump to maximize your fitness gains. Start with sets of 30 seconds and build up to several minutes or more without stopping.

2. Jumping jacks build leg strength

Jumping jacks work all the major muscles in the lower body, strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, quads, hips, calves, and shins. The higher and faster you jump, the more power and strength you’ll develop. You can also wear a weighted vest to increase the intensity and load. Building leg strength through jumping jacks can translate to other exercises by improving your deadlift, squat, vertical jump, running speed, and ability to climb stairs.

A man and a woman doing jumping jacks.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

3. Jumping jacks are a total-body exercise

Nearly every major muscle in the body is recruited with jumping jacks. You’ll work your legs, arms, shoulders, chest, back, and abs. This makes jumping jacks an efficient move, simultaneously strengthening and conditioning your body.

As such, jumping jacks are an excellent exercise to incorporate into a warmup routine because they get your heart rate up, increase circulation to muscles and connective tissues to prepare them for more demanding exercise, and act as a form of dynamic stretching of the hips, shoulders, and back.

4. Jumping jacks burn calories

You don’t have to run a marathon or stride along on an elliptical trainer for an hour to torch a significant number of calories. Because jumping jacks involve nearly every muscle, they are metabolically demanding and can burn quite a few calories, depending on your body weight. Regularly incorporating vigorous sets of jumping jacks may support fat loss, especially when coupled with a healthy diet and a well-rounded, total-body workout routine.

Two women and a man doing jumping jacks in a park.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

5. Jumping jacks increase bone density

Jumping jacks are a form of plyometrics or explosive jump training that involves impact landing. Much like other high-impact activities such as running, jumping jacks stimulate the bones to lay down new bone cells and a denser matrix of minerals to withstand the stress. Increasing bone density reduces the risk of fractures, particularly as you age.

6. Jumping jacks improve mobility

Jumping jacks move several of your joints through their full range of motion — or nearly so — which promotes mobility. For example, your hips and shoulders both abduct and adduct (move out to the side and back) in the frontal plane, a direction not well represented in most exercises that involve forward-and-backward movement (walking, running, rowing, hiking, squats, etc.). Maintaining mobility in these joints minimizes the risk of injury and reduces stiffness and discomfort.

Male and female athletes doing jumping jacks in a park.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

7. Jumping jacks increase hip strength

Jumping jacks are a form of lateral training, which is an important component in building an injury-resistant body. Because the motion is side to side rather than front to back, you’ll strengthen different hip muscle fibers than those used for walking or running, helping balance the strength around your hip joints, which can prevent injuries.

8. Jumping jacks improve coordination

Jumping jacks look simple enough, but they actually require a fair amount of coordination, making them great for your brain. In this way, they also improve balance and rhythm.

A group of athletes doing jumping jacks in a gym.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

9. Jumping jacks are great for HIIT workouts

Exercises that quickly elevate your heart rate and involve many muscle groups work well for HIIT workouts because they can be strung together quickly for a challenging workout with limited rest. Interspersing jumping jacks in a HIIT workout is a great way to push your body to keep working at a high intensity and push through the feeling of breathlessness.

10. Jumping jacks can be done anywhere

Jumping jacks require only your body, meaning you can perform them anywhere without needing to step in a gym or buy a bunch of fitness equipment for your home gym.

Jumping jacks on beach
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11. Jumping jacks reduce stress

Feeling stressed at work? Roll your chair aside for a minute and bang out a set of jumping jacks. Like most exercises, jumping jacks can decrease cortisol levels and reduce stress and tension.

12. Jumping jacks are fun

Let’s face it: It’s hard to do jumping jacks without smiling by the end. Maybe it’s the nostalgic memories of playground fun, or maybe it’s the rush of endorphins that comes from heart-pumping, total-body exercise, but you’re nearly guaranteed to experience a boost in your mood with a vigorous bout of jumping jacks.

Simple, easy, effective, and fun, jumping jacks offer numerous health benefits, so there really is no reason to not add them to your workout on occasion.

New ways to get a workout

If you are reading this, you’re probably catching on to the fact that jumping jacks are great. After all, you just learned 12 new reasons to give them a shot. But if you want to mix it up, or if the regular jumping jacks start to get boring, there are countless ways to change the exercise and keep things interesting. Here are a few.

Burpee jumping jacks

Burpees are a common type of exercise, much like jumping jacks. This exercise simply combines the two. When coming from a spread jumping jack to standing straight up, drop down and do a burpee. Then, on your spring back up, add a jumping jack before you go back down for your next burpee.

Jump rope jack

Jumping rope is another excellent method of simple and effective cardio. You can do this exercise anywhere — if you don’t have the space to use a rope, using the motions with empty hands will also help add to your workout. Here’s how to do it is simple: As the rope comes down, hop over it, splitting and rejoining your legs on each jump like a jumping jack.

Sidestep jack

Combining the upper body motions of a jumping jack with the lower body motions of sidesteps, the sidestep jack is an effective alternative to jumping that might appeal to those with knee pain or injury. As your arms go up over your head in the jack motion, step one of your feet a few feet to the outside. Then, as your arms come back down, bring the leg back to the center. As your arms go up the next time, repeat the motion with the other leg. It’s as easy as that.

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Amber Sayer
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and was previously a Fitness Editor at Byrdie. She…
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