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Jumping Jacks
Image by Mike Schmid via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner Working Well Massage

I hear the same complaints from many of my clients: “I want to work out, but I don’t have time.” “My neck and shoulders are so tight, but I do stretch (when I remember).” Or “I know I should stretch, but I get busy at work and I forget.”

For those of you that work out 5 times a week and incorporate yoga into your daily routine, a big fist pump! For those of you that barely do more than walk to the train or from your car to your office each day, I have a simple little exercise to help you feel less tension and get a bit of movement into your life.

The Big 25

What I am going to suggest is simple, easy to do and takes less than 10 minutes (depending on your speed and fitness level). Even those that are very fit can benefit from the Big 25. What is the Big 25, you ask. Just this: each day, before you get ready for work, stand up straight, take a deep breathe and do 25 Jumping Jacks. Consecutively. (That means without stopping! So do all 25!)

What’s the Big Deal About Jumping Jacks?

The truth is, for people who are relatively inactive, if I gave you a more difficult exercise to do every day, you likely wouldn’t do it. Starting with 25 Jumping Jacks is a great way to get your whole body moving, with minimal effort or training. This means that you pump fresh blood to your arms and legs, work your heart a bit and bring fresh oxygen to your noggin (aka brain) every day simply by doing the Jumping Jacks your grade school gym teacher taught you to do.

Many computer uses sit all day, leaning forward, arms raised over their keyboards, low backs in constant flexion, leaning into their computer screens as they work. When’s the last time you raised your arm overhead? Or moves your arm in a complete rotation (like an arm circle)? Doing Jumping Jacks gives your arms a chance to break out of their keyboard pose, breaks up mild muscle adhesions in the shoulder and upper back, and gives your legs a chance to move sideways to open up your inner adductors (inside your thighs) and work your abductors (those muscles and tendons on the outside of your legs like the dreaded IT Band and your Gluteal muscles). You use your core muscles to stabilize you (or you’d fall over). And flapping your arms overhead as you jump gets your heart rate up.

Too Good To Be True?

You may think, 25 Jumping Jacks, that’s too easy. That’s for kids. That can’t really do much for my fitness. I have to go to the gym for an hour to get any benefit. I must refute those arguments.

1. If it’s easy you will more likely be able to make it part of your daily routine.

2. If kids can do it, so can you (barring any medical issues or injuries, of course). And, you can do it with your kids. Way to role model fitness!

3. True, 25 Jumping Jacks a day will not make you buff. But if you do little physical activity now, and you work at a computer for a living, even 25 Jumping Jacks can help relieve some muscle tension and give your heart a boost. And doing 25 Jumping Jacks gives you at least 10 minutes of the  30 minutes of daily activity recommended by the ACSM and American Heart Association for general fitness.

Can I Do More than 25 Jumping Jacks A Day?

Of course! In fact, I’d suggest you increase the number of JJ’s as you go, say from 25 one week to 30 a day the next, then 30 to 35, until you get to 100 Jumping Jacks a day.  Then, you can move on to Squat Thrusts….Or maybe even hit the gym.

How To Do A Jumping Jack

Maybe you were home schooled and never had gym class. or maybe you forgot how to do them. In any case, if you don’t know how to do a  Jumping Jack,  follow the instructions below and start jumping!
1. Start with your feet together and arms at your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscle. and slightly tuck your pelvis under your spine (this helps take pressure off your low back, so you don’t stick your rear end out too far).
2.Bend your knees slightly and jump your feet apart to just beyond the width of your shoulders. Simultaneously time, raise your arms over your head and lightly tough them together (if you can).
3. Keep your knees bent while you jump your feet back together and bring your arms back to your sides. At this point, your weight should be on your heels.
4. Lather, rinse, repeat. (Or continue until you’ve done at last 25 Jumping Jacks. THEN you can jump in the shower and wash your hair.)

Jumping Jack Video’s

Still not sure how to do Jumping Jacks, check out these videos for demos.

• Les Whitney does a decent job of demonstrating, but I wish his director had shown his footwork! Link here for Les’ video on YouTube.

• Jumping Jacks for people that can fly (Or that don’t need to keep their feet on the ground) from LiveStrong.com on YouTube here.

• Advanced Fancy Footwork Plank Pose–Jumping Jacks from Exercise TV on YouTube here.

• Jumping Jacks in the water: easier on your knees and joints. Check out the Water Aerobics Jumping Jacks demo here.

• Jumping Jack Russell-Watch this lil dog get a fantastic workout. Don’t try this at home…unless you are a Jack Russell Terrier! Watch the You Tube Video here.

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