Fitness ABC: An Exercise to Make you Happy

An Exercise to Make you Happy

The letter ‘H’ in the fitness ABC actually refers to Der Hampelmann which means ‘Jumping Jack.’ A real jumping jack, for those of you that might never have seen one, is the toy on the left of the image below. The arms and legs on the toy are connected by a string, and when you pull the string the arms and legs extend out.

Happy Exercise Jumping Jack

The verse that accompanied this image is (roughly) as follows:

The jumping jack is happy as a lark,
Moving his limbs quickly and easily.
Why should we not be happy,
Like a jumping jack?

Happy as a lark is quite an old-fashioned expression (as you might expect from an old book), but it has lovely origins; it derives quite simply from the cheerful-sounding birdsong of a lark! That’s why I decided to change the H in the fitness ABC to HAPPY! So, if you want to approach each day with a happy song in your heart – read on!

What are Jumping Jacks?

A jumping jack, or star jump, or even side-straddle hop, is the name given to the exercise performed by jumping from an attention position to a position with the legs and arms out. There are loads of websites out there giving you 5, 10, even 20 main benefits of jumping jacks – but let’s actually take a look at one first, then delve into it a bit from there:

How to perform a Jumping Jack

Nope – they haven’t changed since you did them at school!

Benefits of Jumping Jacks

Other websites will talk of benefits to the heart and lungs, and to strength and coordination – all of which are correct by the way – but I want to just keep it simple: Jumping jacks are VERY good for you!

There is no better way to improve blood circulation throughout the body than to simply ACTIVELY move the body. This next little set of exercises is from Radio Tasio Book 1 and involves a very simple jump / jumping jack sequence that will get you on the road to being a jumping jack convert.

For years, people that put together workouts have made up ever more complicated exercises supposedly backed by ‘science’ and ‘research.’ WHY then are more and more instructors are going back to the CLASSICS. My opinion? Well, I concede that we have made great inroads in understanding fitness as a concept, but I also think insofar as developing GREAT exercises, we peaked pretty early on! The classic in this case? The JUMPING JACK.

Pre-Jumping Jack Bounce

Position 1: Stand with the feet together, the knees nice and relaxed and your arms hanging loose down by your sides (in whatever the most comfortable and relaxing way is).

Position 2: Using the NATURAL spring in your knees, jump up and down a couple of times. It does not need to be far, a few cms will do. At the same time shake your arms (imagine your hands are wet and you are trying to shake the water off them).

*The quiet approach – if jumping up and down is a no-no for you, use the same spring in your knees, but only come up on to your tiptoes instead of actually leaving the floor.

Focus: The focus on this first part of the exercise should be your posture. Keeping good posture during this super SIMPLE exercise is going to help strengthen your abdominal muscles, and indeed your core and stabilizing muscles in general.

Basic Jumping Jack

Position 3: From the feet together position, simply perform 2x jumping jacks; that is jump both feet quite wide apart and raise both arms out to the side until they are at shoulder height. Then, reverse and jump back in.

*The quiet approach – With a little more SPEED and VIGOUR than usual, step out widely onto the left foot while raising the arms and ‘clap’ your hands overhead. Reverse the movement then step out onto the right foot and do the same.

Breathing: Breathe out as you jump out, in as you jump in.

Repetitions: Two jumps and then two jumping jacks are sufficient, but you could work this entire section for up to thirty seconds if you liked.

Review: This is a great exercise to give you a feeling of POWER and well-being. It is going to release any tension remaining in the upper body (the arm shaking), while also aligning the legs and levelling out any postural issues generated through the stretching program (the bounce).

Jumping Jack Variations

You will have noticed that in the video the lady ‘claps’ overhead, while I have suggested simply raising the arms to the sides (OR overhead). There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that the Radio Taiso program is a gentle one. It is designed to get your heart pumping a BIT harder and generally perk you up a bit. Jumping jacks generally though are a HARD exercise – don’t let anyone tell you differently. That is how they are so good for strength, coordination and heart/lung health. Perform with the hand clap as part of your ‘sweaty’ workout and you will see improvements in your fitness! Like I say though there are lots of variations to keep you mentally engaged, here is a video detailing some of them:

Jump for Joy

One of the benefits of the jumping jack that I haven’t mentioned is that it is a mood enhancer. I’ve seen websites that suggest doing them for 20 minutes to spark the ‘endorphin’ effect… personally I ‘d be checking my watch after 2, but it depends on what you want out of the exercise. For me, as part of the workouts you can see on this site, a minute or 2 of the most basic jumping jacks clears my mind, sharpens my focus and energizes me. In other words, makes me happy!