Children all across the world do jumping jacks to warm up for gym class, but the classic plyometric exercise can actually burn a decent amount of calories for the adults, too. Since jumping jacks only require body weight, they’re a great cardiovascular workout that can be performed anywhere. Calisthenics nuts also swear by them since jumping jacks use large muscle groups and stimulate the entire body.
So how many calories do jumping jacks burn? It depends on your body weight mostly, but also your frequency and intensity of movement.
A small person weighing about 120 pounds can expect to burn about 8 calories per minute of jumping jacks; while someone twice that size will burn about twice as many calories.
But of course, you can up the intensity and therefore up the amount of calories burned. There’s two ways to increase intensity: either by performing more reps at a slower pace, or performing less reps at a faster pace. By pace, we mean timing — 30 seconds of jumping jacks can be methodical or intense, but if you opt for methodical, then you should extend the timing to one, two, or three minutes.
Performed correctly at high intensity, jumping jacks can burn a lot of calories and tremendously improve cardiovascular health
Metabolism also plays a big part in calories burned for any exercise, not just jumping jacks. Metabolism depends on several factors, most notably sex, size, and age. In general, men burn calories easier than women because they have less body fat and more natural muscle. Also, larger people burn more calories naturally than smaller people, even when resting (obesity does not necessarily apply, here, as visceral fat slows down the metabolism to a crawl). And finally, age matters, too: younger people naturally burn more calories than their elders, even performing the exact same exercise.
To determine the number of calories you can burn during physical activity, exercise professionals often use metabolic equivalents (METs) for accuracy. One MET is equivalent to the metabolic exertion the body naturally produces at total rest — sitting calmly in a chair for example. While at rest, you can expect to burn approximately one calorie for every 2.2 pounds of weight per hour.
Moderate physical activity usually comes in around 5-6 METs, so anything above that counts as more vigorous activity. Jumping jacks typically range between 8-14 METs depending on the aforementioned intensity factors, which makes them an excellent cardiovascular workout.
If you want to push yourself even harder than a traditional jumping jack, try adding a resistance band around the knees or ankles. You can also add a burpee (a full pushup and vertical hop) in-between every five jumping jacks for a hardcore bump in intensity. They also make a great movement snack to break up the monotony of the day at home or in the office.
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