Despite the glut of Peloton, Mirror & Nordic Track commercials on television these days, exercise need not be expensive. A good jump rope costs less than $20. It’s the ramen noodles of workout gear, but it burns a ton of calories and can be used anywhere (except near TVs, lamps and china cabinets. Trust us on this).
“Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you’d burn jumping rope,” says WebMD. And if done properly, it’s a lower-impact activity than jogging, says cardiologist Dr. Peter Schulman at University of Connecticut Health Center. (As with any new fitness regime, check with your doctor about your ability to withstand the impact and high aerobic intensity of rope-jumping.)
Here are some of the health benefits of jumping rope and tips to get you started on the right foot.
1. Ensure your rope is the proper length by holding the handles and stepping on the middle of the rope. The handles should reach your armpits. Wear decent athletic shoes and make sure there’s at least 10 inches of space above your head and a 4-by-6-foot space to jump. Do not jump on grass or carpet. A wood floor or impact mat are ideal. But jumping rope can be done nearly anywhere.
2. Keep at it. If you haven’t jumped rope since third grade, it can be humbling. It demands — and builds — coordination. The highest intensity workout involves one jump each time the rope passes with no mini-bounce in between. Slowing the rope, or adding that little bounce, reduces the intensity. Aim for your target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Your target heart rate zone is 70 to 85% of that number. If you’re 40, your maximal heart rate is 180, and your target zone is 126-153 beats per minute.
3. “The real key is to make sure you jump properly,” says Roger Crozier, who coaches a competitive jump-rope team in San Antonio, Texas. “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 an inch off the floor.
4. Jumping rope can burn 200 to 300 calories in 15 minutes. “It burns more calories than any steady state cardio — from rowing or jogging to cycling and swimming,” says celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels.
“You will quickly notice that if you jump rope for two minutes straight as a beginner, it will heavily challenge your cardiovascular capabilities,” says personal trainer Morgan Rees. “Your heart rate will rise immediately. This increases caloric burn as well as challenges the body’s different energy systems.”
5. The benefits of jumping rope include burning calories, better coordination, stronger bones, a lower injury risk, and improved heart health. Jumping rope is one of the most underrated types of exercise, and is one of the most effective forms of cardio — if it’s done properly.