Jumping Jacks & Joints

Man leading group of people in boot camp exercises, rear view

Jumping jacks are basic exercises that don't require specialized equipment or extensive fitness knowledge. The exercise has always been considered an effective way to get your heart pumping and to burn calories, but now jumping jacks are being heralded for a different health benefit. Jumping jacks and other high impact exercises can improve your bone health by stimulating cell regeneration to keep your bones dense. Yet there are still concerns about high impact exercises and joints.

High Impact Dangers

The repeated jarring action of jumping up and down to perform jumping jacks is what defines them as high impact exercise. Any such exercise can wear on your hips, knees and ankles, especially if you've already sustained an injury to any of those joints. Before engaging in a lengthy set of jumping jacks, take your joint health into consideration, including whether you've been injured or have arthritis or another condition such as osteopenia or osteoarthritis. Get your doctor's opinion, too.

Warmup Activity

Jumping jacks can be included in all parts of workouts from beginning to end, but are very effective as a warmup activity to be performed even before stretching. You need to warm up your body and your muscles before you stretch out, and jumping jacks are an ideal exercise to accomplish that since they get your blood flowing and supplying your joints, muscles and tendons with vital oxygen. Two to three minutes of jumping jacks and then some stretching before you start your actual workout will prepare your body more than sufficiently.

Do It Right

Although jumping jacks can be hard on your joints, you can reduce your chances of injury by taking a few precautions and performing the exercise correctly. Repeatedly jumping up and down while barefoot can lead to injuries in your feet and ankles, so wear appropriate shoes -- when exercising in general, but especially when performing jumping jacks. And never do jumping jacks on concrete or another hard surface; that can injure your ankles, knees, hips and even your spine. Doing jumping jacks on a padded or carpeted surface will absorb some of the impact.

Aquatic Jumping Jacks

Consider taking your jumping jacks into the pool. Performing such exercises in the water has two benefits. First, the water reduces the impact on your joints. According to Randy Littlejohn in his book on fitness and personal training, when you jump up and down in chest-deep water, only 25 percent of your body weight will affect your joints. Second, the water also adds resistance that will benefit your muscles.