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Skipping Rope Doesn't Skip Workout

When was the last time you jumped rope? It's cheap and portable – and burns more calories than you might think. Give it a whirl!

How To Jump

If you haven't jumped rope since third grade, it can be humbling. It demands (and builds) coordination. Initially, you should practice foot and arm movements separately.

  • Hold both rope handles in one hand and swing the rope to develop a feel for the rhythm.
  • Next, without using the rope, practice jumping.
  • Finally, put the two together. You'll probably do well to jump continuously for one minute.

Alternate jumping with lower intensity exercise, such as marching, and you'll be able to jump for longer periods. You'll probably never want to jump for a solid 10 minutes. Rather, incorporate it into a varied exercise routine, such as one developed by Edward Jackowski, PhD, author of Hold It! You're Exercising Wrong. He uses rope-jumping intervals, initially 50-200 repetitions, in a combined aerobic and strengthening program.

The highest intensity workout involves one jump each time the rope passes. Slowing the rope to adding an extra little jump reduces the intensity. Pay attention to your target heart-rate zone. That's where you're exercising with enough intensity to benefit from the exercise and not so vigorously as to endanger your health.

Here's how to determine your maximal heart rate: 220 minus your age. The high end of your target zone is 85% of that number; the low end is 70% . If you're 40 years old, your maximal heart rate is 180, and your target zone is 126-153 beats per minute.

 

Preventing Injury

Check with your doctor if you have any doubts about your ability to withstand the impact and high aerobic intensity of rope-jumping. As mentioned, shoes and jumping surface are important. As with all exercise, warming up, stretching and cooling down are important. How you jump will determine the impact on your body.

"The real key is to make sure you jump properly," says Roger Crozier. He teaches physical education at Fox Run Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, and coaches a competitive jump-rope team. "Stay high on the toes. When you walk or run, you impact your heel. With rope jumping you stay high on your toes and use your body's natural shock absorbers." Crozier says rope-jumping is lower impact than jogging or running if done properly. If not, it's considerably more impact.

"Beginners usually jump higher than necessary. With practice, you shouldn't come more than one inch off the floor.

Jump Rope for Heart

For nearly 25 years, Jump Rope for Heart has promoted fitness among elementary school students and raised money for heart research and education. It's sponsored by the American Heart Association, and Crozier is a volunteer who's developed training videos for participating schools. His students raised $11,000 in 2002.

"Jump Rope for Heart fits so well with physical education because we're fighting heart disease, the number one killer, and stroke, the number three killer," he says. "It's a chance to improve their own health while doing something good for someone else."

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