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.
The verse that accompanied this image is (roughly) as follows:
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!
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.
Radio Taiso: Gentle & Invigorating Daily Exercises
Raise your energy levels and encourage good health with this English language version of the famous Radio Taiso calisthenic exercises routine.
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
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
*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
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