Are Jumping Jacks as Effective as Running?

Man doing a jumping jack in field

When you're looking for a new regimen to tone your muscles, burn calories and help you keep active, the exercise doesn't have to be complicated. Activities such as jumping jacks and running are different, but each is simple and provides an aerobic workout that works several major muscle groups. If weight loss is your goal, the exercise that burns calories faster is more effective.

Physical Activity

Whenever you're preparing to adopt a new workout, determining just how much time you should spend exercising is important. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends healthy adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. The 150-minute mark might seem like a significant obstacle, but just 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise is enough to help you exceed the guideline.

Calories Burned

A simple method of comparing two physical activities is to note the calories each exercise burns. If you're looking for an activity to help you lose fat, selecting the exercise that burns calories faster will help you achieve your goal sooner. The calculator on computes that a 160-pound person who spends 30 minutes doing jumping jacks at a moderate pace will burn 163 calories. If the same person runs at just 5 miles per hour for 30 minutes, she'll burn 307 calories.


Jumping jacks and running are ideal exercises because they involve many major muscle groups throughout your body. A set of jumping jacks works such areas as your legs, glutes, core, chest and shoulders, while running works your legs, glutes, arms, shoulders and core. If you want to increase the muscle-building benefit of either activity, consider wearing light ankle or wrist weights. The American Council on Exercise reports that wearing 1- to 3-pound wrist weights during aerobic exercise can increase your heart rate up to 10 beats per minute.


Both exercises help you burn calories and tone your muscles, but you might lean toward one over the other based on its conveniences. For example, jumping jacks are a simple exercise to perform in your own home and don't require any equipment. To stay active while watching TV, perform a set of jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Running is also simple, but it usually requires ample space outdoors or access to a treadmill. The impact to your joints of each activity is also an important consideration; each can have minimal impact if you avoid taking high jumps and strides, but if you have joint pain, one activity might be easier for you than the other.