Before riding off into the sunset on that stationary bike, consider giving the jump rope a spin. Not just for the playground posse or boxers in training, jumping rope is a total-body workout that rivals the calorie burn of running– without the whole "running" part. Sounding good? It gets even better.
Not Just For Kids — The Need-to-Know
Jumping rope burns calories, improves both aerobic and anaerobic endurance, develops strength, and fortifies bones– no gym membership required  . And it can be done just about anywhere, with a rope’s small size making it easy to stash in a gym bag or a suitcase for a workout on the go. Plus it’s cheap: even a hi-tech rope like the Skipp Comp— which counts number of skips, time, and speed—runs less than $20, so any weight lost won’t be coming out of a wallet.
Jumping rope is truly a total-body exercise, with heavy emphasis on the arms, legs, abs, shoulders, and chest. Because it requires so many parts to work in unison, it also builds coordination, agility, and balance. And since both legs absorb the shock of each jump, jumping rope is usually easier on the knees than running or jogging (though it’s a little more difficult to do in water). Interestingly, a study found that because of the added concentration factor, people tend to push themselves harder jumping rope than they would jogging or skipping without a rope .
For sports with a lot of overhead movements like volleyball and gymnastics, jumping rope can even be effective in conditioning shoulders for repetitive stress . Jumping movements— known in the fitness realm as plyometrics— also improve bone density in adolescents and adults, decreasing the long-term risk of osteoporosis  . Got milk? Great, now grab a rope.
Jump Start Your Fitness — Your Action Plan
Despite its numerous fitness benefits, jumping rope can still be a high intensity, high impact activity, so it’s important to remember a few safety guidelines. First, make sure the rope length is correct to prevent the need for excess jarring movement. To measure an appropriate length, stand on the center of the rope with one foot, pull up, and adjust to make sure the tip of the handles just reaches the shoulders.
When jumping with the rope, keep the body upright, arms close to sides, and elbows at a 90-degree angle while making small circles with wrists. Keep on the balls of the feet and jump only high enough to clear the rope (3/4 to 1 inch). Wearing shoes with good forefoot padding is also recommended to cushion landings, as is jumping on is a rubberized or wooden floor.
Now who’s ready for some Double-Dutch?
Updated November 2011