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Jumping jacks might seem like a basic exercise, but they offer some serious benefits, including boosting your cardiovascular system and toning your muscles.
They’re a plyometric, total-body move that can also be part of a calisthenics routine. Since jumping jacks only require your body weight, they’re also a great cardiovascular exercise that you can do anywhere and anytime.
In addition to increasing your heart rate and improving muscular strength and endurance, jumping jacks are also a fantastic way to burn calories.
The number of calories burned will vary from person to person. According to MyFitnessPal, jumping jacks can burn about eight calories per minute for a person weighing 120 pounds and up to 16 calories per minute for someone weighing 250 pounds.
There are several factors that determine the number of calories you can burn when doing jumping jacks.
April Whitney, an NASM-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, explains that if it’s calorie burning you’re after, you’ll want to up the intensity.
You can do this in two ways:
- Perform a high number of jumping jacks at a slow pace.
- Perform a low number of jumping jacks at a fast pace.
Your metabolism also plays a role in how many calories you can burn doing jumping jacks. It’s dependent on several factors, including:
- Height and weight. When it comes to metabolism, the larger the person, the more calories they’ll burn. This is true even at rest.
- Sex. In general, males burn more calories than females performing the same exercise at the same intensity because they usually have less body fat and more muscle.
- Age. The aging process changes a lot of things about your health, including the number of calories you burn. This slowdown is caused by an increase in body fat and a decrease in muscle mass.
To determine the number of calories you can burn during physical activity, exercise physiologists, trainers, and physical therapists often use metabolic equivalents (METs) for accuracy.
One MET is the energy it takes to sit quietly. While at rest, you can expect to burn approximately one calorie for every 2.2 pounds of weight per hour.
Moderate activity usually comes in around 3 to 6 METs, while vigorous activities are those that burn more than 6 METs. Jumping jacks can range between about 8 and 14 METs, depending on intensity. You can find countless MET tables, like this one, online.
To determine how many calories you’ll burn per minute:
- Multiply the MTEs of an exercise by 3.5.
- Take that number and multiply it by your weight in kilograms.
- Divide that number by 200.
Your result will be the number of calories you burn per minute. You can also plug this information into an online fitness calculator, like this one from MyFitnessPal.
Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of any weight loss program.
You can use METs as a general rule of thumb for the number of calories burned per pound for weight loss.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and perform five minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity level of jumping jacks, you can expect to burn around 47 calories.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. In general, you can do this by taking in 500 fewer calories every day and increasing your physical activity.
To burn an extra 500 calories with jumping jacks alone, you’ll need to kick up the intensity. Even then, you’ll still need to do a good number of jumping jacks.
Instead, consider making jumping jacks part of a larger routine by:
- doing them as a cardio interval between strength training sets
- doing several sets of five minutes over the course of a day
- making them part of a cardio circuit
In addition to burning calories, jumping jacks can also help to increase your aerobic capacity or cardiovascular fitness.
The movement involved in jumping jacks is particularly good for strengthening muscles in your lower body, including your:
- hip flexors
Your upper body, including your back, shoulders, and core, will also benefit.
The standard jumping jack is a great calorie burner, but if you want to add some variety to your workouts, there are several ways you can change things up to make the move more challenging or target different areas of your body.
To increase the intensity, Whitney recommends adding a resistance band just above the knees or at the ankles, which activates the glutes. You can also try doing a full-body burpee after every five jumping jacks.
If you aren’t quite ready for a full jumping jack, try some lower intensity modifications.
Eric Sampsell, PT, ATC, CMP, Cert. MDT, a physical therapist for The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, recommends going through the move slowly with a step instead of a jump.
“This can be beneficial in allowing the tendons and joints to acclimate to these new moves and prepare it for a higher-level version later,” he explained.
Another alternative is to remove the arm movement from the exercise and focus on the legs, or vice versa, in order to master a part of the exercise before trying the full jumping jack.
While jumping jacks are relatively safe for most fitness levels, there are some things to be aware of before you add them to your workout routine.
If you have any lower body injuries or you’re prone to chronic pain in your knees or ankles, check with your healthcare provider or physical therapist about best practices.
Make sure to land softly and stick to a carpeted or padded surface. If you feel pain or discomfort while performing jumping jacks, stop the exercise and talk to an expert about alternatives.
Exercise is good for your body and soul. But too much can have adverse consequences that may lead to overuse injuries, stress, anxiety, or depression.
Some of the warning signs of compulsive exercise include:
- putting exercise before everything else
- feeling stressed if you mix a workout
- using exercise as a way to purge food
- getting frequent overuse injuries
If you have concerns about your relationship with exercise, talk with your doctor or mental health professional. You can also reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association at 1-800-931-2237.