If you've ever participated in a boot camp workout that was heavy on the calisthenics, you already know that exercises like jumping jacks offer a great cardiovascular workout. They're also a useful component of a program to lose fat all over, including in the abdominal area — although to see the best results, you should combine your jumping jacks with other workouts for variety, along with a healthy, nutrient-rich diet that focuses on lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high-quality lean proteins.
Although jumping jacks can't spot-reduce fat from your belly, they can help you lose fat from all over your body, including your belly — especially if you combine them with a healthy diet and other types of physical activity.
About That Belly Fat
There are actually two types of belly fat you might have. If you look in the mirror and see fat just under your skin that you can pinch with your hand, that's subcutaneous fat. You can't magically spot-reduce this type of fat from specific parts of your body; the entire concept of spot reduction is a myth. What you can do is balance a healthy diet with increased physical activity to lose fat from all over your body.
Another type of belly fat that you can't see so easily is visceral fat, which pads the space between your internal organs. Having too much of either type of body fat poses a risk to your health and increases your risk of conditions such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. But of the two, scientists consider visceral fat to be the more serious danger.
Any physical activity can help decrease both types of fat, but how you work out matters most. A study published in 2016 in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that adding high-intensity interval training, or HIIT — brief sprints interspersed with slower recovery periods — to a workout routine makes it even more effective for burning both types of belly fat.
If jumping jacks are one of your favorite cardio exercises, you can use them either for the sprint intervals or for the recovery periods in a HIIT workout, depending on how challenging they feel for you.
How You Burn Fat
Adding physical activities like jumping jacks to your workouts helps create a caloric deficit. In other words, you burn more calories than you consume, so your body has to use stored fat for energy.
Exercise works best when paired with a healthy diet that emphasizes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. When compared with a diet based mostly on processed foods, this automatically limits your calories and boosts your nutrient intake, giving you the quality fuel your body needs to keep moving.
Calories Burned With Jumping Jacks
It's almost impossible to determine an accurate calorie burn per single jumping jack. Your energy expenditure depends on a number of factors, including your gender, body composition, age and body weight.
According to the Harvard Health Publishing, a 185-pound person would burn about 200 calories during a half-hour of moderate-intensity calisthenics. This includes exercises like jumping jacks.
Bump the intensity level up to "vigorous," and the same person would burn about 355 calories in a half-hour. That puts jumping jacks right up there with workouts like high-impact step aerobics, circuit training and moderate-intensity biking or rowing.
Other Types of Jumping Jacks
Even if you love jumping jacks, doing them nonstop for a half-hour will feel like a long time — and when you do the same type of exercise over and over, it may increase your risk of overuse injuries. But if you just can't get enough of jumping jacks in your cardio workouts, you can mix things up by including different versions of this versatile exercise, including:
- Step jacks — Step out to one side or the other every time you swing your arms up, instead of jumping with both feet. This is helpful if you prefer low-impact exercises.
- Star jumps — Squat down; then explode up into a jump, spreading both arms and legs out to create the shape of a star or starburst.
- Squat jumping jacks — Squat down, bringing your arms down beside your body; then jump up out of the squat and into a regular jumping jack.
- Oblique jacks — Hold both hands near your head, elbows pointing out to the side. Lift one knee and bring the elbow on that side down toward your knee; then repeat on the other side.
Read more: Alternatives to Jumping Jacks
Add Other Calisthenics
Aside from being fun, one of the best things about jumping jacks is that you can do them almost anywhere without any special equipment. You don't even need a gym membership.
The same is true of most calisthenics exercises, which you can mix into your jumping jacks routine for more variety. These include:
- Mountain climbers
- Pistol squats (single-leg squats)
- Bear crawls
If you have access to the proper equipment, pullups and dips are also great calisthenics exercises.
Read more: The 20 Best Body-Weight Exercises
How Much and How Long?
So for how long should you do your jumping jacks every day? There's nothing wrong with a brisk, 10-minute session of jumping jacks in the morning or anytime you want a quick pick-me-up for your brain and your energy levels. But for optimal health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Depending on your diet, that might be enough for fat loss . Most people, though, will need to exercise more to burn off extra belly fat.
Make that initial guideline your first exercise goal and, once you've met it, set your sights on double that amount: 300 minutes of moderate activity each week or 150 minutes of vigorous activity. Not only will that yield more health benefits, it'll also boost you well on your way to your fat loss goals.
Other Exercises for Variety
Jumping jacks are fairly high-impact — so not everyone will tolerate them well, especially for extended periods. Don't be afraid to mix your jumping jacks and calisthenics workouts with lower-impact exercises to keep your body happy.
Cycling, swimming, rock climbing and inline skating are all low-impact ways of keeping your body moving. In general, the exercises that you enjoy are the ones you're most likely to keep doing over time — which, in turn, means they're the most likely to produce results.
So if you love jumping jacks, jump on! Just keep in mind that doing a certain number of jumping jacks isn't as important as getting — and keeping — your body moving consistently.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Azumio: Back to Gym Class - Jumping Jack Variations
- ExRx.net: Spot Reduction Myth
- Harvard Health Publishing: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: Eight Weeks of a Combination of High Intensity Interval Training and Conventional Training Reduce Visceral Adiposity and Improve Physical Fitness: A Group-Based Intervention
- Health.gov: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans