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Published November 01, 2010, 12:00 AM

Jumping rope kick-starts heart with an adult workout

As the weather gets chillier, bikes are put in the garage, in-line skates are packed away and going for a walk sometimes means navigating icy sidewalks. And people get sedentary in their own homes.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

As the weather gets chillier, bikes are put in the garage, in-line skates are packed away and going for a walk sometimes means navigating icy sidewalks. And people get sedentary in their own homes.

Of course, there are still gyms and exercise classes, but that means braving the cold.

Home workouts are not only doable but can also be affordable. You don’t need a StairMaster or a treadmill or a stationary bike to get your heart pumping.

Health experts say a good part of a cardiovascular workout can be found in something you may not have touched since you were in grade school – a jump rope.


Skipping rope isn’t just child’s play say area fitness instructors and therapists. It’s a good exercise for getting the heart rate up.

“It’s a very good one because you’re working your upper body besides your lower body,” says Jeff Duerr, a personal trainer working out of the YMCA in Fargo.

“Not only does it burn calories, it helps with athletic performance, too,” he says. He uses it on athletes who need explosive movements, like sprinters or jumpers.

“I think it teaches your muscles to become a little more elastic. I think it would benefit runners and athletes so when they hit the ground, their foot has more spring,” says Al Kraft, exercise physiologist at Sanford Health, who adds that it could be easier on the body than running, depending on the surface you’re on.

Kraft says jumping exercises help with foot speed, timing and rhythm.

Mandy Zastre, health and wellness coordinator for the area YMCA outlets, says it’s good for working on agility, coordination and endurance.

She sees it not just as a good cardio exercise, but also good for toning.

“Because you’re not using weights, you’re just using your body weight, it’ll do more developing of the longer, leaner muscles rather than the bigger, bulkier muscles,” she says.


For all its benefits, jumping rope isn’t something everyone should jump into.

Duerr warns that people with bad knees and back problems may find up-and-down pounding on the joints too painful.

Also, avoid jumping on concrete or hard surfaces with no give. Instead, Duerr recommends jumping on exercise mats, though he warns yoga mats could be too small and slippery.

Becky Dockter, a physical therapist at Essentia at West Acres, says jumping workouts are not good for people with arthritis or joint pains.

Still, the jump rope itself can be a good tool for upper body exercise by swinging it in a figure eight. Such movements are good even for healthy people to break up a jumping routine.

Don’t skip the beat

Kraft likes skipping rope for a full-body warmup or in a circuit along with other exercises to get a cardiovascular workout, but only for about three or five minutes.

“But that would be a long jump-rope session,” he says. “Most people can’t even go that long.”

But even those short bursts make an impact.

Estimating one generally burns .075 calories per pound of body weight per minute exercising, Kraft estimates a 150-pound person would burn 11 calories per minute, or 55 calories in five minutes.

“So it’s a pretty good calorie burn,” he says.

“It’s intense so you can do shorter amounts of times and get good benefits,” Zastre says, adding that the jump rope is often overlooked.

And she doesn’t mean because it’s small, portable, easy to put away when not being used and affordable – all benefits for its advocates.

“It’s an excellent tool because it’s so simple. Children used to be in shape because they used to jump rope all the time,” Duerr says.

“It’s a tool we’ve kind of lost because we have the treadmills now, all the expensive machines, but none of them can promote balance or fast twitch muscle explosion like that. You don’t have anything like that.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533