What are Jumping Jacks?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Jumping jacks are a form of calisthenics in which people jump energetically. This exercise is sometimes used as a warmup, and it can also be a form of aerobic exercise. Many people associate jumping jacks with the schoolyard, and they are indeed part of some school calisthenics programs, but they are also used by professional athletes. There are some variations on the basic exercise which people can use in different settings to mix things up in order to prevent boredom, or if they have concerns about injuries or physical limitations.

Jumping jacks are an aerobics exercise.
Jumping jacks are an aerobics exercise.

It is important to stretch before doing jumping jacks, to get the body ready for the exercise and to loosen up. After stretching, people move into a standing position and jump up, with the legs ending up shoulder width apart and the arms over the head. Then, they jump back into a standing position which brings the legs together and the arms back by the sides. These exercises can be repeated a set number of times, or within a set time period, such as five minutes.

All exercises should begin and end with stretching routines.
All exercises should begin and end with stretching routines.

Jumping jacks act as a form of advanced warmup, getting the blood flowing and the body loosened for more intensive exercise. They also work the calves, thighs, back, and shoulders when they are done properly. In addition, because jumping jacks are usually done in quick succession, the exercise will also elevate the heart rate, turning it into a form of cardiovascular exercise. Research has shown that daily cardiovascular exercise, even in small amounts, can be highly beneficial for physical health and wellness.

Also known as star jumps because of the five-pointed star formed by the body during jumping jacks, jumping jacks can be made easier or harder with some variations. Some people like to bend to touch the toes between jacks to increase flexibility. Others may bring the arms only partway up. Clapping, a common accompaniment to jumping jacks, is actually not recommended because it can strain the shoulders, and people shouldn't try to force their arms if they cannot bring them together over their heads.

A personal trainer can provide tips and advice for someone who is learning jumping jacks, including tips to help the exerciser hold form. It's important to stand up straight, to avoid twisting, and to keep the abdomen firm. If form is poor, the exercise will not be as beneficial, and sometimes it can put people at risk of injury.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Cloudel- I have tried to do jumping jacks as part of my regular cardio routine, but I can never manage to do more than twenty of them before I give up. Jumping jacks fail to get me motivated to workout.

What I do instead is jump rope. I absolutely love it. Jumping rope really gets my heart pumping and when I get a little better at it I am going to buy a weighted jump rope to add to the intensity. I feel that after jumping rope for twenty minutes I feel that I have gotten a great workout, but I don’t feel the same about jumping rope.


@orangey03 – I know you don't feel like it, but jumping jacks could actually be a fun workout for the two of you to do together. You would have to start out slow, like I did, but you might be surprised at how many you could work up to after a month or two.

My three-year-old demanded so much of my time that I had completely abandoned my workout routine. I started feeling unhealthy and winded from short walks up stairs, so I decided that one way or another, I would get a workout in each day.

I knew that the only way to do this would be to find something that my daughter and I could do together. I started teaching her how to do simple exercises, and we began with jumping jacks.

In the beginning, it was rough, because I was so rusty. My daughter could out-jump me by a mile. Over time, though, I managed to keep up with her. Physically, I feel better than ever. I never could have done it without her, literally.


I once could do many cardiovascular exercises. I used to jump on the trampoline, jump rope, and do jumping jacks, all in one day. That all changed once I started seeing symptoms of polycystic kidney disease.

I started having severe pain in my abdomen and lower back. After my CAT scan, my doctor told me that I had PKD, and he said I should avoid activities that might cause trauma to my kidneys, like horseback riding or football.

That was fine, because I did neither of those things. However, I soon found out that any activity that involved jumping or jostling my organs around would cause an episode of severe pain, because the cysts would rupture.

So, my days of jumping jacks ended at age 26. I'm stuck with walking and swimming as my workout, but I sure do miss jumping around.


When it comes to doing jumping jacks, toddlers are the best. They have a seemingly endless supply of energy, and even this intense workout takes awhile to tire them out.

When my two-year-old is wearing me out by wanting constant attention, I get her to do jumping jacks. I tell her to see how many she can do in a row. This keeps her busy awhile, and by the time she's finished, she's usually ready to lay down and watch TV.

I think it's sad how my energy level has decreased with age. I can't even do ten jumping jacks in a row anymore. Perhaps that's because my toddler has sapped my youthfulness and drained my body of any willingness to exercise.


When I first had physical education class in school, we learned to do jumping jacks. I remember the exhilaration I felt while doing that fun and silly looking exercise! It looked really funny when the coach did it, because he was older and overweight.

As I grew up, I often did jumping jacks to get my heart pumping. I had a lot of energy as a youngster, and this exercise was a great way to expend some of it. I found that I got rid of it quickly that way.

By the time I turned fourteen, I refused to do jumping jacks in public. I thought of it as child's play, and I wanted to appear mature. I still did them in my back yard, though.


I don't remember when I learned how to do jumping jacks, but it was probably at an early age. My dad still likes to do jumping jacks to get some exercise and get his heart rate up.

It seems like most kids know how to do some jumping jacks. When I had a daycare in my home I would combine some physical exercise with learning how to count.

If we did six jumping jacks we would also be learning how to count to six. This was a fun way for the kids to burn off some energy and work on learning how to count at the same time.

It is so cute to watch the younger kids work on their coordination as they are doing the jumping jacks. It was fun for them, but seemed like a lot of work to me after awhile! I can't do as many of them I as used to be able to without getting out of breath.


@manykitties2 - Jumping jacks can actually be a lot of fun too if you are willing to compete with your friends or jump to music. I actually purchased some jumping jacks shoes so that I could have a bit more spring in my step.

Actually, the shoes I bought aren't really anything special, but they do have a somewhat spongy sole to them which makes them ideal for the impact of the exercise. When I was shopping for new shoes they asked me which exercises I like to do and recommended that I get shoes with a lot of spring in them for jumping jacks.


If you want a really simple cardio workout for women, jumping jacks are an easy and simple exercise that can easily fit into your workout. I find that if I do my regular work out and toss in some power jumping jacks between sets I can keep my heart rate up and really benefit from my exercise.

When I was younger I remember hating doing most jumping jacks and just wanted to jog or swim. I think that with a proper sports bra I found that the exercise was a lot more comfortable. Without that the exercise isn't recommended because it can actually be painful.

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