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 requiredAnaerobic and aerobic responses of males and females to rope skipping. Quirk, JE., Sinning WE. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 1982;14(1):26-9.The effects of rope or weighted rope jump training on strength, coordination and proprioception in adolescent female volleyball players. Ozer D, Duzgun I, Baltaci G, et al. Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Faculty of Health Sciences, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2011 Jun;51(2):211-9.. 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 ropeHeart rate, activity, duration, and affect in added-purpose versus single-purpose jumping activities. Bloch, MW., Smith, DA., Nelson, DL. Kalamazoo Regional Psychiatric Hospital, Michigan. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy 1989 Jan;43(1):25-30..

For sports with a lot of overhead movements like volleyball and gymnastics, jumping rope can even be effective in conditioning shoulders for repetitive stressThe effects of jump-rope training on shoulder isokinetic strength in adolescent volleyball players. Duzgun, I., Baltaci, G., Colakoglu, F., et al. Dept of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey. Journal of Sport Rehabilition 2010 May;19(2):184-99.. Jumping movements— known in the fitness realm as plyometrics— also improve bone density in adolescents and adults, decreasing the long-term risk of osteoporosisLongitudinal changes in bone mineral density in male master cyclists and nonathletes. Nichols, J.F., Rauh, M.J. School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2011 Mar;25(3):727-34.Effect of high impact activity on bone mass and size in adolescent females: A comparative study between two different types of sports. Pettersson, U., Nordström, P., Alfredson, H., et al. Department of Surgical and Perioperative Science, Sports Medicine Unit, Umeå University, Sweden. Calcified Tissue International, 2000 Sep;67(3):207-14.. 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