Anyone who has ever worked out at some point in their life undoubtedly has a set of exercises they love, and another set they aren’t so fond of. Some people love their pushups while others simply groan in disappointment every time their workout routine requires them to do pushups. Yet others may be fond of planks, and may not be so taken with the treadmill. But whatever your workout preference may be, there’s one exercise that most people find to be fun. They’re the jumping jacks.
The popular appeal of jumping jacks stems from the ease with which they can be performed, and from the fact that they can be performed by just about anyone, from beginners to seasoned athletes. They can also be easily modified to increase the intensity, thus allowing you to constantly challenge your body.
The basic movement for a jumping jack requires you to first stand erect with your feet together and your arms hanging by your sides. Then, jump up and spread your feet out wide, up to shoulder width. Simultaneously, swing your arms upward and unbent in a semicircular motion, stopping at the top of your head. Then jump again and bring your feet back together. This time, bring your hands back down to your sides. That’s how simple a jumping jack is. Interestingly, despite being such a modest exercise, jumping jacks have a whole range of benefits to offer, as discussed below.
Keep Your Heart Healthy with Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks result in full-body movement. In turn, this kind of comprehensive effort ramps up your heart rate because your heart practically needs to pump blood faster to all of your body. Your hands and feet move continuously through the exercise, and so does your torso and the rest of your body, since you’re essentially jumping up and down and simultaneously moving your limbs. This extra effort required from your heart strengthens it and makes it healthier. Your heart needs to work extra hard to supply oxygenated blood to all parts of the body and bring deoxygenated blood back for purification. Thus, performing jumping jacks on a regular basis toughens your heart muscles a little bit each day, and has the effect of keeping it healthy too. This has several positive long-term effects like protection against cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Also, since jumping jacks burn a lot of fat, they keep you from becoming obese. This, in turn, impacts the heart in a positive way and ensures that there’s no build-up of bad cholesterol.
Aids in Weight Loss
Innumerable diet plans may come and go, and workout trends may change each passing year. But the truth behind the key to weight loss remains the same. Essentially, you can only lose weight by creating a caloric deficit in your body. There are two ways to do this. In the first, you reduce the number of calories you take in. This is done by eating foods with fewer calories. The second method is by expending more calories than you consume. To do this, you need to stay more active. Jumping jacks are one of the easiest ways to achieve this goal. With as few as ten sets of fifty reps of jumping jacks each, you’ll burn around a hundred calories (or even more, depending on the intensity of your jumping jacks). That’s an extra hundred calories burned each day, aside from your regular use of energy. Eventually, once these deficits add up, you’ll find yourself losing weight faster. And if you’ve already reached your ideal weight, jumping jacks help you maintain it at that level. Thus, this seemingly simple exercise not only aids in weight loss but also helps you stay at your ideal weight.
While the word ‘stamina’ is often used in place of the word ‘energy,’ the true meaning of stamina is strength and endurance. There’s a thin but distinct difference between the two. Someone who is very energetic may not be strong and capable of enduring prolonged physical or mental activity for a considerable period. To achieve this level of sustained effort, you need stamina. And that’s where jumping jacks can help you. To complete a set of jumping jacks perfectly, you’ll need to jump up swiftly, land softly on your feet without any adverse impact on your ankles, and maintain your poise and balance. All of this together contributes to better stamina and stability. Initially, you may find that you’re breathless and tire out quickly. But with practice, as you ramp up your workout and include more reps per set or more sets per routine, you’ll find that you become stronger. It gets easier to continue and complete a set without tiring out, which is a sign of improved strength and stamina.
Exercises Your Muscles
Jumping jacks are one of the most comprehensive bodyweight exercises. They work on practically every muscle set in the body. Among these are commonly worked out muscles like your calf muscles and your core, and also the lesser used muscles like your hip and shoulder adductors and abductors. Your calves are worked out because each time you land on your feet after a jump, it’s your calves that support your first. Also, when you’re performing a set of several jumping jacks, your core and the muscles in your back are activated because they need to synchronize the movements of other major muscle groups. As for your hips, moving your legs in and out targets the muscles on your outer thigh as well as the much less targeted muscles in the inner thighs, thus helping you reduce the infamous inner thigh flab. Jumping jacks also work on the shoulder muscles, thanks to the arm movements involved. Your shoulder abductors are worked out when you move your arms up, and your shoulder adductors are activated when you bring your arms down.
One of the lesser known benefits of consistently performing jumping jacks is that they improve your muscle coordination. This is because one single rep of jumping jacks requires you to first jump outward while simultaneously moving your arms up over your head, and then, to jump back inward while bringing your hands back down. Variations of the exercise also break up the hand movement into four stages instead of two, making you take your arms to your side, then up, then back to your sides, and finally down again. These modifications improve the coordination between your hands and your legs. Coordination is an important aspect in everyday activities like walking, opening or closing things, and even for scratching an itch and combing your hair. Having better coordination also helps you get better at sports because games like soccer and baseball require sharp hand-eye coordination. It’s also useful for butterfingers who are generally clumsy since they can improve the coordination between their limbs.
Good Warm-Up Exercise
If you’re not used to doing large sets with several reps of jumping jacks, don’t let that get you down. Jumping jacks not only make for a good addition to your regular workout, but they’re also a great way to get your body warmed up for your typical workout routine. First, jumping jacks are a great way to stretch your limbs out and shake them up. The exercise also relaxes and activates the muscle groups all over your body uniformly, thus preparing your body for other strenuous exercises down the line. Right from the muscles on your face to the nerve endings on your feet, your entire body is accelerated and energized. Blood rushes to every part of your body, and even if you’ve primarily sedentary for a while, your muscles wake up and are then better prepared to take on the challenges of other weightlifting routines or strenuous cardiovascular exercises. Working out without stretching or warming up can adversely affect the results exercises have on your body.
Jumping jacks work out your joints and keep them agile and active. When you move your arms up and down, your shoulder joints are worked out and used adequately. Similarly, because you jump in and out, your hip joints are also put to use. As for your knees, although they aren’t directly involved, they play an important role in maintaining balance and support when you’re performing jumping jacks. This exercise also strengthens your ankles. By working on all the major joints in your body, jumping jacks help improve your body’s mobility. Another upside to regularly incorporating jumping jacks into your workout routine is that they improve the circulation of blood throughout the body. Your heart rate goes up, and as more blood reaches the parts of your body that are activated (which is practically all of your body when you’re doing jumping jacks), the cells in those parts are oxygenated and re-energized.
So, now you know how many advantages a simple set of jumping jacks can give your body, you’ll undoubtedly want to incorporate them into your workout routine. Thankfully, that’s easy enough to do, because jumping jacks can be performed as a warm-up exercise, or as a part of your main workout. You can even add a few sets of jumping jacks to the end of your workout. Ultimately, all you need to figure out is what works for you.