Are Jumping Jacks Bad for the Legs?

Jumping jacks can hurt or help your legs.
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If your school gym teacher made you perform endless jumping jacks, you know that the deceptively simple-looking exercise can make you sore. But a little muscle soreness isn’t bad for you -- in fact, it usually means you’re challenging your body to grow stronger. But joint pain, on the other hand, is another issue entirely.


    Any exercise that involves leaving the ground stresses your joints. Running, for example, involves slapping your feet into the ground repeatedly. The series of shock waves generated by the repetitive movements passes through your body, stressing your joints and bones over time. Similarly, the repetitive movements of jumping jacks can cause pain or joint trauma. If you experience any joint pain or swelling, in your legs or elsewhere, stop immediately and visit your doctor.

Expert Insight

    If you haven’t exercised in a long time, or if you are severely overweight or have a joint condition, visit your doctor to see if jumping jacks are appropriate for you. For example, jumping jacks might cause hip, knee and ankle pain in people who suffer from arthritis. On the other hand, vigorous exercise also might be therapeutic, so it’s important to ask your doctor for guidance.

Bone Health

    In some cases, jumping exercises can strengthen your bones. For example, women who perform jumping exercises, alone or as part of a fitness program that includes walking or resistance training, can maintain or improve hip bone mass, according to research cited by the book “Action Plan for Osteoporosis,” by Kerri Winters-Stone.

Pool Jumping Jacks

    If normal jumping jacks aren’t an option because of leg pain, ask your doctor if pool jumping jacks are suitable. Your body’s buoyancy in the pool will prevent you from landing hard, so your legs and joints won’t suffer from repetitive impacts. Also, water resists your leg movements more than air does, increasing the effectiveness of jumping jacks for lower-body muscle development.

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