Skip Rope, Not Your Workout

What are the benefits of jumping rope?

So you want to burn off some calories fast. You don't want to spend a bunch of money on gyms and equipment and you need to be able to do it almost anywhere and you can't go running outside for whatever reason (snow and ice, bad neighborhood, too many steep hills, or whatever). Then jumping rope may be for you. If you think rope jumping is only for girls and little kids, check out most boxers. Rope jumping is often integrated into their workout plan because it tones many upper and lower body muscle groups, improves cardiovascular fitness and endurance and aids coordination.

Your dollar output is a beaded rope (for beginners, a rope strung through plastic oblong beads with a handle at each end) because it keeps its shape and is easy to control (about $7 to $20) and cross-training athletic shoes (about $49 to $150) and a place that is about 4 X 6 foot area with a relatively non-slick floor (wood, exercise mat, or piece of plywood) -- not carpet, dirt, concrete, asphalt, or grass to avoid twisting an ankle or knee. Also, you need about 10 to 12 inches of space above your head for the rope to swing freely as you jump. The ropes come in various lengths. Your correct length is easily determined by putting the center of the rope under both feet and having the handles reach your armpits or the lower part of your breastbone.

Getting started jumping rope

If you have not jumped rope for years, the following steps may help you get into the swing of things:

  • Jump on the balls of your feet (practice a few times without the rope).
  • Don't jump high. Practice trying to jump only about an inch.
  • Use a rope length (described above) that fits you.
  • Position your hands slightly above your waist and about 12 inches from your body.
  • Use your wrists to twirl the rope. Don't swing your arms and shoulders very much.
  • Get into a rhythm (hum a tune or listen to music with a good beat).
  • Practice. Beginners should first practice without the rope and then with the rope but swinging it with both handles in one hand and not jumping through it. This helps the beginner develop some basic coordination and confidence in handling the rope.

Some experts suggest beginners also start by jumping the rope first only once, then pausing. After a few cycles of a single jump, then try to jump the rope two times and pause and so on until you can eventually constantly do one jump for each cycle that the rope makes around your body.

Monitor your heart rate to stay safe while skipping rope

Danger! Do not overdo this exercise. Check with your doctor to be sure you are fit enough to start this exercise program. Although it is lower impact on your knees and feet than jogging, it is a high intensity cardiovascular workout. The workout usually challenges your heart to pump fast. Most fitness experts (and many doctors, including cardiologists) suggest that a high-intensity workout or exercise should sustain about 85% of your personal maximal heart rate for an excellent cardiovascular challenge. So what is your personal maximal heart rate? It's calculated as follows: 220 minus your age. For example, a 30-year-old maximal heart rate is calculated by 220 – 30 = 190 while a 60 year old is 220 – 60 = 160. To calculate the high end workout heart rate (85% of maximal heart rate), multiply your calculated maximal heart rate by 0.85 (for example, 190 X 0.85 = 162.5 for 30 year old and 160 X 0.85 = 136 for 60- year-old). For a less intense cardiovascular workout, multiply the maximal heart rate by 0.70 or 70%.

Remember to check with your doctor(s) and/or orthopedist or cardiologist before beginning any high-intensity exercises, but if it's OK with your physicians, you can get a jump start on calorie burning by jumping rope!

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Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine