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12 benefits of jumping jacks you might not know about

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

There’s a simple bodyweight exercise that each branch of the armed forces has used religiously to keep their trainees in peak physical condition to represent the best of the best in terms of military prowess. Most would instantly think of the bodyweight squat, the push-up, or perhaps even the pull-up, however, that’s not the one we’re talking about. Enter the jumping jack.

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.

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, improving your squat, deadlift, vertical jump, running speed, and ability to climb stairs.

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 in 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

A man and a woman doing jumping jacks.

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.

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.

7. Jumping jacks increase hip strength

Two women and a man doing jumping jacks in a park.

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.

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.

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 get a boost in 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.

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