Jumping jacks are an excellent aerobic exercise! Their simplicity shouldn't shadow how effective and versatile the move is for aerobic and strength-building benefits. Jumping jacks are a type of muscular and aerobic conditioning known as plyometrics, and because the move can be fun and even a bit entertaining, it's appealing to the youngest kids and can liven up the workout of a kid at heart.
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Plyometric training is a one-two punch for both cardio and strength training. "Plyometrics refer to exercises that link strength with speed of movement to produce power and were first known simply as 'jump training,'" according to Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D. and Donald A. Chu, Ph.D., P.T., ATC in a report for the American College of Sports Medicine. They say there are thousands of exercises categorized as plyometric—like depth jumps and box jumps—but you can keep the mood light for yourself and with your kids with some hopscotch, jump rope, or jumping jacks.
The value of these movements comes "every time the feet make contact with the ground the quadriceps are subjected to the stretch-shortening cycle," followed by a rapid stretch of the same muscle on the next jump. This cycle creates an increased speed of movement, improved power behind the movement, stronger bones, and can even contribute to weight loss efforts.
Jumping jacks provide a wider range of benefits than many other types of aerobic exercise, which increase cardiovascular health but do not provide the same resistance exercise.
"Jumping jacks are a great form of cardio because they involve full body movement in a quick manner," explained Paige Kumpf, ACE certified personal trainer. "Additionally, it recruits the larger muscles of the legs in an explosive manner, which requires more energy, more oxygen, and gets the heart rate up quickly."
The broad, sweeping motion of the activity calls into action your arms and your legs, two of the largest muscle groups in the body. Jumping jacks also serve as a great warm-up for a more intense workout, as it gets the heart pumping but also activates the lower body, in particular quads, calves, and ankles.
Because of the total body effect of jumping jacks, this aerobic exercise is actually an ideal part of a fitness regimen aimed at weight loss. Harvard Health reports that a 185-pound person doing jumping jacks for 30 minutes could burn up to 222 calories. If a full half-hour feels monotonous, break it up! Do three 10-minute sessions throughout the day if 30 minutes is the goal.
The beauty of the jumping jack is that it can be done virtually anywhere, without requiring the gym or committing hours to exercise. D0 five minutes here, 100 jacks there, when you wake up, before a workout starts, when you're listening to an endless conference call...or any other free time you have during the day!
Jumping jacks are a fun way to motivate kids to be more active, and one that's been deemed safe by the ACSM. Jumping jacks are like play for children, which helps them get the recommended 60 minutes or more of physical activity they need each day, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, CDC, and other leading organizations.