Jump for Joy: The Jump Rope Workout

Jumping rope is a heart pumping, calorie burning powerhouse exercise. It's portable, affordable, and challenging. All you need to get started is an inexpensive jump rope and some clear space. Jump rope has come a long way since grade school. Any length of rope will do, but plastic and beaded ropes hold their shape better than cloth ropes and cost less than $20.

Choose an area with enough space so your rope won't knock things over and a jumping surface that's free of clutter. Carpeted, wood, and foam-matted floors make good jumping surfaces because they give your knees, ankles, and feet a little padding. Cement and asphalt may be too hard and jarring on your joints.

If it's been a while since you've jumped or you're a beginner, you might need to practice one-handed for a while. Double your rope and hold both handles in one hand. Then, place one hand on a wall, rail, or chair back. Practice jumping in rhythm with your rope as it hits the floor until you feel ready to jump like a kid again. Then,

  • Grab the handles with both hands.
  • Keep your elbows close to your ribs and turn from your wrists, not your shoulders.
  • Start out turning about 70 times per minute and work your way up to a faster pace.
  • Start jumping and land on the balls of your feet with your knees bent.
  • Land on your feet only once per turn of the rope.
  • When you're ready to jump faster, try a few speed jumping intervals or, as we called it back in grade school—jump hot pepper.

What Will You Get for All This Jumping?

A 150 lb person who jumps rope for 15 minutes can expect to burn approximately 170 calories. Don't kid yourself though. Very few people can jump continuously for 15 minutes. Start off jumping a minute and resting a minute, but stick with it and eventually, you'll be able to jump for longer periods of time.

Like jogging, jumping rope is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that increases your heart and respiratory rate. It's a high-impact activity that can strengthen your bones. It's a strength building compound exercise that builds muscle in the arms, legs, back, and core simultaneously. And since you have to concentrate to keep from tripping (and, of course, to remember your rhyme), jumping rope may even be good for your brain.