The Science of Jumping

“1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 at once, 6, (skip 7), 8, 9, 10. Turn around and hop back through. Pick up the stone on square seven.” This is counting of a child playing hopscotch at school. It’s truly amazing how such a simple game can capture their attention for an entire afternoon. All they think about it hopping and counting correctly. Without much effort, they successfully navigate through the squares. What they don’t realize is how much effort it really takes to hop from square 1 to 2.

Hoping (or jumping) requires the body to go through a pretty complicated process stemming from the simple command to jump.

With that simple command, the body starts responding immediately. The brain calculates how much power will need to be applied to reach the optimal height and distance you’re looking for. The calculations transform into a neural impulse sent from the brain, through the central nervous system to key muscles in the legs and core. Those impulses stimulate the muscles to contract and stretch in just the right way to lift the body off the ground. These impulses stimulate just enough strength for the body to complete the proper distance and speed of the jump.

At the same time, other electrical impulses are measuring your location in the air and sending stimulations of their own to balance your body throughout the entire motion. Without the Cerebellum’s guidance, hopscotch would be more difficult as you could never be sure how you would land after you took off.

The body is truly remarkable. The unconscious effort it takes the brain to jump from square 1 to square 2 is enough to bore any child. If they had to do it themselves, the game would cease to be fun. Luckily for them, their bodies do all the work without any more thought than “jump.”

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