If you're searching for a great piece of exercise equipment, just ask the nearest grade-schooler. Kids jumping rope on playgrounds and at parks are getting a great workout while having fun.
A jump rope is simple and rugged. You can work out with it at the gym or in your living room (if your ceiling is high enough). It's easily portable and fits into your purse or even your pocket. Better still, you can pick one up for less than $15 at a department or sporting goods store.
While you're whirling a jump rope overhead and underfoot, you're also achieving these good-health goals:
Burning calories. A 150-pound person can burn 750 calories an hour jumping rope. That's more than you'd burn while spending the same amount of time playing singles tennis, walking, or riding your bike at 12 mph.
Strengthening bones. The best types of exercise for improving bone health are those that require you to carry your weight, such as jogging and climbing stairs. Jumping rope is also a weight-bearing exercise. If you already have osteoporosis, though, jumping rope isn't recommended because the impact can affect your joints.
Improving balance. As you practice staying on your feet while jumping, you may enhance your balance and reduce your future risk for falls and other injuries.
If you haven't picked up a jump rope in years, or perhaps decades, here are a few ideas for getting the most benefit out of the activity:
Use the right rope. A jump rope should be just long enough so that if you stand with one foot in the center of the rope, the handles come up to your chest. Choose a rope with lightweight foam handles instead of weighted handles.
Get the right grip. Grasp the handles near the rope end, one in each hand. Hold them lightly; squeezing tightly can interfere with blood flow to your fingers. Turn the rope by gently pivoting your wrists.
Keep good form. Be sure to keep your elbows near your body and your shoulders relaxed. Your back should stay straight, while your knees remain slightly bent. Control the rope so that it passes smoothly over your head. As the rope nears your feet, hop just high enough for the rope to pass beneath you.
Learn a variety of steps. Explore the many styles of jumps to keep this exercise fun and interesting. For example, try these moves:
Stand with your left foot forward. Leap over the rope first with your left foot, then your right, landing with your left foot about a foot in front of your right. Repeat for a few minutes, then switch to leaping with your right foot first.
Start with your feet side-to-side and near each other. Jump over the rope and land with most of your weight on your left foot, lightly touching the toe of your right shoe to the floor behind your left foot. On the next jump, switch feet, and then keep alternating.
Start with your feet side-to-side and begin passing over the rope in a stepping motion. Each time you step over the rope, take turns landing on one foot, then the other so that you're essentially jogging in place.
If you're looking for an inexpensive, heart pounding workout that you can do rain or shine, grab some supportive sneakers and a jump rope and get started.