Jumping jacks are a fantastic full-body exercise, which mainly work your cardiovascular fitness and burn calories.
Furthermore, they require no equipment and help to improve balance and coordination.
That being said, some people find that jumping jacks cause them pain or discomfort in the head.
In this article I’d like to discuss why jumping jacks hurt your head and what you can do about this.
The muscles in your head and neck require more blood to circulate while performing jumping jacks (or any exercise for that matter). This means that the blood vessels need to dilate (expand) in order to deal with the increased blood flow, especially to the specific muscles that are being activated through exercise. Unfortunately, this can cause what are known as exertional or exercise headaches, although this most commonly occurs during high-intensity exercise.
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The Reasons Why Jumping Jacks Cause Head Pain
The main reason that your head hurts during jumping jacks is down to blood flow.
Basically, when you exercise, the muscles that are being activated require increased blood flow.
Furthermore, the head and neck also require more blood to circulate in these regions.
In order to cope with the increased blood flow your blood vessels will dilate (expand), thus allowing blood to flow through the body at a faster pace to the target muscles.
However, when performing any exercise at a high intensity, such as jumping jacks, this can lead to what is known as an exertional headache, also referred to as an exercise headache.
Who is Likely to Suffer With an Exertional Headache?
Headaches from jumping jacks or any physical exertion can happen to anyone.
That being said, there are those who are more susceptible than others.
Liable to Migraines
As I’ve mentioned, head pain or discomfort from jumping jacks typically occurs due to increased blood flow and dilated blood vessels (to cope with the increased blood flow).
However, if you’re someone who regularly suffers from migraines, or are susceptible to migraines (one or both of your parents experience migraines), then there is a higher possibility that jumping jacks may induce a migraine.
That being said, an exercise headache isn’t generally harmful, and it will usually go away once you stop exercising.
But, as I say, if you’re someone who experiences migraines there is a higher possibility of a pounding head from jumping jacks.
High Blood Pressure
If you’re someone who has high blood pressure (hypertension) then there is an increased risk of headaches from physical activity.
High blood pressure is most prevalent in overweight or obese people, African Americans, and the elderly.
Furthermore, it can be brought on through stress and anxiety.
Then again, hypertension is also commonly associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
So, if you can find ways in which to keep your blood pressure under control you’re less likely to experience these headaches from jumping jacks.
Food & Water
Finally, a poor diet or a lack of hydration is likely to cause headaches.
Plus, the fact that exercise requires food and water for both fuel and recovery could have an impact.
So, prior to performing jumping jacks ensure you have eaten a well-balanced meal that will fuel your workout, while drinking plenty of water.
However, you should also make sure that you allow adequate time for digestion before you start exercising.
The same can be said after exercise when healthy meals and plenty of water will aid your recovery.
How to Prevent Head Pain While Doing Jumping Jacks
Okay, so I’ve already mentioned food and water as part of fueling your workouts and recovering from them.
Food Ingredients & Drinks
However, there are certain foods that can “thin the blood”, which will actually help you to avoid these headaches.
If you think about it whenever you have a headache you’ll typically take medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.
Now, although these are often referred to as “blood thinners” (which they do to some respect), they actually slow blood clotting time.
But, this also means that blood flow throughout the body isn’t as restricted.
Now, I would never suggest that you take medication due to your head hurting from jumping jacks.
This would constitute medical advice, which is beyond the realms of my expertise.
That being said, there are certain foods and drinks which can do this and are considered healthy.
As an example, coffee, turmeric, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, Vitamin E, etc. are all natural blood thinners.
So, even something as simple as drinking a cup of black coffee prior to doing jumping jacks could help you to avoid a sore head.
Rest & Recovery
I would also suggest that you look at your sleeping habits.
Both sleep and recovery have a massive impact on exercise.
However, we tend to view this in terms of simply getting in a great workout when we’ve had a good night’s sleep, or that our muscles are no longer aching from a previous workout.
That being said, poor sleep or simply not recovering well from a previous workout could be the reason behind your head pain from jumping jacks.
Try Modifying Jumping Jacks
I’ve mentioned that headaches from physical activity often come about from vigorous exercise.
Basically, the more intensely you exercise, the greater chance that you’ll experience a headache.
So, this could simply be a matter of cutting back on your intensity.
This could simply involve performing fewer repetitions or spending less time performing jumping jacks.
Then again, a great way to do this is to modify jumping jacks with various regression exercises.
When to See a Doctor
As stated above, providing medical advice is beyond my level of expertise.
That being said, there are times that it may be advisable to speak with your Doctor.
Firstly, if you’re severe and persistent head pain during jumping jacks (or any exercise), this isn’t normal, so you should seek medical advice.
Furthermore, if your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness or nausea, this isn’t normal, so once more, please speak to your Doctor.
Finally, if you have any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to your head pain, e.g. high blood pressure, speak to a medical professional.
This is especially important if you do have underlying or pre-existing medical conditions, as you should always speak to your Doctor before increasing your levels of physical activity.
Key Learning Points
- Jumping jacks cause increased blood flow around the head and neck.
- Exercise in general promotes increased blood flow, which in turn means that your blood vessels dilate (expand).
- You may be more susceptible to headaches from exercise if you have a history of migraines.
- High blood pressure, poor diet, lack of proper hydration, and poor sleep and recovery habits can all contribute to headaches during exercise.
- Headaches are often brought on by intense and vigorous exercise, so consider using regressions/modified jumping jacks.
- If your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness or nausea, or if you have an underlying medical condition, speak to a Doctor.
Are you actually performing jumping jacks correctly?
Or is your poor form responsible for your headaches?
Discover the answer to the burning question, whether you should land on your toes or heels when performing jumping jacks.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.