Cinderella dressed in yella went downstairs to kiss her fella. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? 1, 2, 3. Remember the days when you jumped rope to a rhyme like this and got your daily exercise during an effortless endeavor called recess? While exercise may not be quite as easy as we age, it can be as fun. Jumping rope can give you a terrific, vigorous workout—and the fun isn’t just for kids anymore.
As an aerobic activity that uses large muscle groups, jumping rope provides great cardiovascular conditioning that also builds strength, balance and coordination. And because jumping rope is weight bearing, you’ll build bone mass and density, which helps protect you from osteoporosis. Even better, a 150-pound person can burn as many as 750 calories per hour, according to the American Heart Association.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never jumped rope before or were once a double-Dutch champ, jumping rope is easy to learn and convenient to do. Many fitness clubs offer jump rope classes, and you can buy videos or books, but all you really need is a good-quality rope. To get started, follow these steps:
- Buy a lightweight jump rope with foam, nonslip handles or grips. Choose a rope that’s the correct length. To measure it, step with one foot in the center of your rope and bring both handles up to your chest. They should reach about chest high.
- Wear good fitness shoes such as aerobic shoes or cross trainers. Choose a pair with a reinforced toe and plenty of cushioning under the balls of your feet.
- Use proper form. Swing the rope from your wrists, keeping a smooth arc as it passes over your head. Keep your back straight, head up, shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body. Bend your knees slightly, and when you hop over the rope, keep your jump low to minimize impact on your knees and ankles. For each turn of the rope, hop only once.
- Mix it up. Once you’ve mastered the basics of swinging the rope and jumping over it, play some upbeat music and get creative. Try variations such as hopping on one foot, skipping, backwards jumping, torso twists, jogging steps (lift the knees high), side-to-side ski jumps or crossing and uncrossing your arms. Vary your rhythm, keep tempo with your music or include intervals of faster jumping.
As with any exercise program, get your doctor’s OK first, start slowly and pace yourself. Don’t give up if you can jump for only a minute or two at a time without becoming winded. Keep practicing until you can work up to at least 30 minutes. Before you know it, you’ll be moving light on your feet and reciting those old rhymes again.