Juggling for Fitness

2012-03-02 by . 4 comments

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Juggling is not one of the first things to come to mind when designing a fitness plan, but the surprising benefits of this exercise make it a great addition to any routine. Juggling provides cardiovascular exercise, stress relief, enhanced coordination, a brain workout, and more. It’s also an engaging, goal-based workout that can spice things up and make it easy to fit in quick bouts of exercise at various points throughout your day.

Common Misconceptions About Juggling

Let’s start off by dispelling a few of the common misconceptions about juggling.

  • It’s not exercise. All it takes is five minutes of trying your hand at juggling to realize it is a cardio exercise. Practicing juggling burns up to 280 calories an hour (depending on body weight), similar to walking. Using proper stance and engaging core muscles increases the exercise factor of juggling.
  • It’s just for clowns. Chances are that at least one of your friends or family members knows how to juggle. It’s for people of all ages and body types. Many professional athletes use juggling to improve coordination, reaction time, and sharpen focus. A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals even credits his amazing catching ability to juggling.
  • It’s difficult to learn and is for coordinated people.  Just like with anything, the key to learning to juggle is using the right resources that teach the skill in a simple way. If something isn’t working, switch methods or teachers.  Coordination is by no means required to juggle; in fact, juggling is one of the best ways to increase coordination, an important but often overlooked element of fitness. Having taught people from ages four to eighty four, including pro athletes and people with Parkinson’s disease, I’ve found that anyone can learn to juggle.

How Juggling Makes a Great Addition to Any Exercise Routine

  • It’s a truly portable exercise. Juggling can be done nearly anywhere with minimal equipment. Juggling balls can be kept on the office desk for a quick bout of activity during a stressful day, or brought on business trips to exercise in the hotel room. Juggling makes a great rainy day alternative or way to keep active throughout the day both pre- and post-gym workouts.
  • It works out body and brain. With the unfortunate prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, brain fitness is a hot topic. Juggling is brain fitness that also burns calories. German researchers found that learning to juggle increased gray matter in the brain in 7 days. (Source: Changes in Gray Matter Induced by Learning—Revisited)
  • It’s an exercise that doesn’t ‘feel’ like exercise. Because juggling is goal-based and requires problem solving and focus to learn, it doesn’t feel like a traditional cardio workout, or even a workout at all. This makes it an attractive option for those just getting started with exercise, or those that find it difficult to walk or run on the treadmill and need something more engaging. It’s also a way to keep exercise exciting while challenging the body in new ways.
  • It’s an easy way to keep active when recovering from lower body injury. Many of us have experienced foot issues from running or walking. For avid exercisers, not being able to workout due to injury can be very frustrating. Since juggling is upper body cardio and can even be done sitting down, it offers a great option for exercise during recovery, or even just to give your feet a rest once in a while.

Juggling Basics and Lesson

So how do you do it? Some people find it easiest to learn with juggling scarves (plastic grocery bags make a fine substitute). These will float slowly through the air so you can learn the juggling pattern in ‘slow motion.’  Learning with balls (small oranges can also be used), will take longer, but uses the same pattern as with the scarves.

The photo demonstration below shows how to juggle with balls. To start with scarves or grocery bags, follow the same steps except hold your hand in a prone (face-down) position. Other than that, the pattern is exactly the same.

Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Once the three-ball sequence starts to feel comfortable, engage your core by holding in your abs and keeping your feet planted. (You can also juggle sitting down in an armless chair.)

Note: Consult your physician before starting this or any exercise program.


Photos are meant for you to follow while looking at them. When instructions say hold ball in your right hand, the model will be holding it in her left hand so that it forms a mirror image with you as you practice.

One-Ball Sequence

To get your throws smooth and solid, it’s important to start out with one ball.

Step 1  Hold one ball in your right hand.

Step 2  Toss the ball from your right hand over to the left so it peaks above the left side of your forehead.

Step 3  Catch the ball in your left hand.

Continue to practice by tossing from right to left, then left to right. When this feels comfortable, move on to the two-ball sequence.

Juggling for Fitness - One Ball

© 2012 JuggleFit LLC


Two-Ball Sequence

Step 1  Hold one ball in your right hand and one in your left.

Step 2  Throw the ball from your right hand over to the left so it peaks above the left side of your forehead (just as you did in the one-ball sequence).

Step 3  When the first ball peaks, throw the ball from your left hand over to the right in the same way.

Step 4  Catch the first ball in your left hand.

Step 5 Catch the second ball in your right hand.

Pause and take a deep breath, then repeat Steps 1-5, but this time throwing from the left hand first. When this is comfortable, move on to the three-ball sequence.

Learn to Juggle for Fitness - Two Balls

© 2012 JuggleFit LLC


Three-Ball Sequence

Step 1  Hold two balls in your right hand and one in your left.

Step 2  Throw one of the balls from your right hand over to the left so it peaks above the left side of your forehead.

Step 3  When the first ball peaks, throw the ball from your left hand over to the right in the same way.

Step 4  Catch the first ball in your left hand.

Step 5  When the second ball peaks, throw the third ball (in your right hand) over to the left.

Step 6  Catch the second ball in your right hand.

Step 7  Catch the third ball in your left hand and stop.

When steps 1-7 are smooth and comfortable, continue the pattern beyond three throws. Anytime a ball peaks, throw another ball to the other side. Focus on aiming for the opposite ‘corner.’ It’s just the same throw over and over again, from right to left and left to right. Think of it as the simple pattern that it is, and focus on good throws. Catches will come with time.

Juggling for Fitness - Three Balls

© 2012 JuggleFit LLC


Practice Tips

  • Practice over a bed or couch to make things easier.
  • Set a timer for your practice session so you can be in the moment and fully focus.
  • Record your progress. Aim to get at least one more throw each time you practice.
  • Have fun!


Heather Wolf of JuggleFit

Heather Wolf


Heather Wolf is the founder of JuggleFit LLC and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. She has taught thousands to juggle for fitness through her DVDs and live workshops, and has appeared in national media such as Fox & Friends and Woman’s Day magazine. Heather is also the creator of the popular Shake a Snack™ app for iPhone® and iPod® touch.

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  • Jarrod Dixon says:

    Do you recommend increasing the juggled objects’ weight as you get better? As long as you have a strong floor, that is…

  • Jesse Blair says:

    I am surprised no one has mentioned joggling (juggling while jogging). That is my favorite way to exercise. I go to an empty basketball court or baseball field and have a blast.

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