Jumping rope? Isn’t that for boxers — and, um…little girls? Well, believe it or not the simple act of jumping rope can do more for you overall than the same time spent jogging. Jumping rope is also easy to do anywhere. A jump rope slipped in your backpack or bag can be brought along on a trip, to work, school or done in the living room while you’re watching your kids — or watching TV.
To start jumping rope, head to your nearest sporting goods store and get a rope. While you probably don’t want to get a lightweight rope from the toy department for a workout, if that’s all you’ve got, it will work. Plastic ropes are usually used in gyms and they are a little easier to use for speedwork. Once you have your rope, make sure it fits you comfortably. Most ropes range from 8 to 10 feet long. You can cut it to adjust it – but once you cut it you can’t make it longer. Stand on the middle of the rope and hold the handles comfortably at waist height. Adjust accordingly.
Pick a nice, flat surface to jump on like a gym mat or concrete floor. Something that gives a bit will be more comfortable but if you choose a grassy or dirt surface — as I have to do out here in the middle of nowhere — make sure there is nothing in the way like rocks, sticks, grass that’s very long, that kind of thing.
The benefits of jumping rope are many. Here are a few you might not have known about:
Jumping rope actually improves your coordination by making you focus on your feet. Whether or not you’re paying attention to them, your brain is aware of what your feet are doing. This practice, over and over again, makes you “lighter” on your feet. Training for one of those warrior-style obstacle course races? Jumping rope can help. According to expertboxing.com‘s Boxing Training Guide, “the more tricks you do with the jump rope, the more conscious and coordinated you have to be.”
Jumping rope is beneficial for those active in other sports. Many athletes in basketball, tennis, football and other sports often suffer foot and ankle injuries from running and then stopping quick and turning. This is very common in both tennis and basketball. Jumping rope not only improves your foot coordination but also increases your strength in the muscles surrounding your ankle joint and in your foot, decrease the chance of injury to those areas. According to the Jump Rope Institute, “jumping rope teaches players to stay on the balls of their feet, as opposed to being flat footed or on their heels. And since you are on your toes the entire time you jump rope, you will find that staying quiet on your toes when playing tennis will become easier and second nature.”
Compared to jogging for 30 minutes, jumping rope actually burns more calories. According to Science Daily, “This aerobic exercise can achieve a “burn rate” of up to 1300 calories per hour of vigorous activity, with about 0.1 calories consumed per jump.Ten minutes of jumping rope can roughly be considered the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile.”
A jump rope can go anywhere with you. Take it to work, take it to school. Warm up before your basketball game or cool down after a bike ride. Learn to do tricks and double dutch with your kids or have competitions between you and your family — how long, how low you can jump, how high, spinning — all kinds of tricks can be done with a jump rope.
Dr. Daniel W. Barry, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, at Denver, and a researcher who has studied the bones of the elderly and of athletes, says that the best exercise to improve bone density is simply jumping up and down. “Jumping is great, if your bones are strong enough to begin with,” Dr. Barry says. “You probably don’t need to do a lot either.” (If you have any history of fractures or a family history of osteoporosis, check with a physician before jumping.)
According to The New York Times, “in studies in Japan, having mice jump up and land 40 times during a week increased their bone density significantly after 24 weeks, a gain they maintained by hopping up and down only about 20 or 30 times each week after that.”
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, skipping rope is highly recommended for aerobic conditioning. In order to increase your heart and lung health you must do it three to five times per week for 12 to 20 minutes at a time.
In addition to improved heart health and stamina, jumping rope also improves how efficiently you breathe. This becomes very beneficial when doing other activities because you won’t be as out of breath after running down the court or swimming laps in the pool.
Believe it or not, jumping rope can make you smarter. According the Jump Rope Institute, jumping aids in the development of the left and right hemispheres of your brain, which further enhances spacial awareness, improves reading skills, increases memory and makes you more mentally alert. Jumping on the balls of your feet requires your body and mind to make neural muscular adjustments to imbalances created from continuous jumping. As a result jumping improves dynamic balance and coordination, reflexes, bone density and muscular endurance.
Because you are actually working your brain and your body at the same time, boxers in the ring who jump rope actually are more calm overall than those who don’t. The Jump Rope Institute attributes this to the biomechanical perspective. “As one dissects this exercise further and views it from a biomechanical perspective, it represents a composite movement combining a circular motion with an angular momentum. The body resembles a projectile subject to all the laws that govern projectile motion while the rope becomes a dynamic flywheel subject to all the laws that govern rotary motion. It is in the synchronous and harmonious coordination of these movements where the secrets and benefits are received.”
Your improved ability to jump rope and be synchronous with your body, mind and the rope, can actually help you be more calm in other situations.
Grab a jump rope, get hopping and be amazed by the different ways your body and mind will benefit.
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