Jumping Jacks & Joints

Jumping jacks can help you achieve your fitness goals, but they can also harm your joints.
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Jumping jacks can help you bounce your way to better cardiovascular fitness and increased weight loss. Unlike some other exercises, they don't require special equipment or skill, but jumping jacks can be hard on your joints. If you have a history of joint problems, have a chat with your doctor before you make jumping jacks a regular part of your fitness routine.

Jumping Jack Benefits

    Jumping jacks get your heart pounding, and this cardiovascular workout can burn many more calories than calisthenics and other forms of training. The number of calories you'll burn depends on your weight, age, health and other factors. "Harvard Health Publications" estimates that a 125-pound person can burn 300 calories in 30 minutes of rope jumping -- an activity similar to jumping jacks. Your calves, hips, shoulders and thighs also get a strength-building workout, and the mild stretching of jumping jacks can help reduce muscle tension.

Joint Risks

    Jumping jacks require repeated landings after you jump, and the weight of your body in conjunction with the impact of the ground can cause havoc on your joints. You may feel pain or weakness in your knees and ankles, but some people also experience hip pain from the repeated hip motions. With this joint risk comes a risk of falling if your joints give out or if you lose your balance, and this can cause injuries ranging from minor muscle pain to broken bones.

Risk Factors

    If you have a history of joint problems, osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, jumping jacks could be particularly risky. Previous injuries, such as sprains and strains, can also weaken your joints and throw you off balance, so talk to your doctor before doing jumping jacks if you're recovering from an injury. Being overweight can also pose a risk because your joints have to bear a heavier load.

Minimizing the Risk

    Jumping on a flat, shock-absorbing surface can help reduce the impact of jumping jacks. Some people do jumping jacks on trampolines and similar springy surfaces, but it's important to ensure you have enough room to jump around and that the trampoline is not elevated high off of the ground. Do jumping jacks every few days, and incorporate other forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as cardio kickboxing, or more low-impact cardio exercises such as cycling or walking into your fitness routine.

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