Are Jumping Jacks as Effective as Running?

Jumping jacks are a total-body cardiovascular workout.

Jumping jacks are a total-body cardiovascular workout.

Have you ever found yourself mid-jog, bored to tears and just wishing that you could flap your arms wildly above your head? If so, you probably belong to the unique tribe of children masquerading as adults in society. Lucky for you, there's an exercise that will give you many of the benefits of running while also letting your inner kid out: jumping jacks.

Calories Burned

Running at moderate to fast speeds burns more calories than jumping jacks. For a 150-pound person, doing vigorous jumping jacks burns roughly 549 calories per hour. This is comparable to running at 5 miles per hour, which burns 576 calories per hour. Faster runs dramatically increase your calorie burn: Running at 8 and 10 mph burns 918 and 1,224 calories, respectively. Of course, if you're running that fast, you're probably the coolest kid on the playground and don't need to worry about lame things like calories.

Muscle Building

Jumping jacks provide an excellent total-body workout. They develop fast-twitch muscle strength in your calves, glutes, deltoids, lats and gracilis (inner thighs) — boosting your ability to make explosive movements. Running does not target the upper body as well as jumping jacks. The primary muscles used in running are all in the lower body: quads, hamstrings, glutes and iliopsoas (hip flexors). Slow to moderate running builds slow-twitch muscle fibers, which boosts endurance, while sprinting builds fast-twitch muscle fibers.


Although both jumping jacks and running are high-impact activities that stress your muscles, connective tissue and joints, jumping jacks can be modified to have less impact. After all, you're a child at heart, not in your knees. Jumping jacks can be performed on softer surfaces, including gym mats or grass. A modified jumping jack form can also lower impact. To perform a low-impact jumping jack, begin with your feet together. As you raise your arms, bring one leg wide while leaving the other planted. As you lower your arms, bring the wide leg back to center. Repeat, alternating legs with each arm arc.

Ease and Convenience

Jumping jacks edge out running in ease and convenience by requiring less space and less time. They can be performed nearly anywhere, whereas running requires a track, an open road or trail, or a treadmill. However, both running and jumping jacks require no gear other than athletic clothes and shoes.

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About the Author

Calvin Harris is a certified climbing instructor, licensed attorney, real estate agent and writer based in Texas. He has worked in a variety of fields, including law, construction, energy and government.

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