During our recent bout of extreme cold I received a question about jumping rope. The question came from someone who mainly walked for exercise, and wanted to know if jumping rope was a good alternative during cold and icy weather when you don’t feel like getting out. I thought it was a very good question and I wanted to share my response with all of you!
Let’s start with some pros. First, a jump rope is one of the most cost-effective pieces of exercise equipment. Even a fancy speed rope can usually be found for under $20. Second, you don’t need a great deal of space to jump, nor does your jump rope take up a lot of space, so there’s really no excuse not to have one! Finally, jumping rope is an effective cardiovascular exercise that burns calories fast and strengthens the muscles, connective tissues, and bones of the feet, ankles, and lower legs especially.
From a metabolic standpoint, jump rope is classified as a vigorous activity. Depending on the rate of speed, jumping rope is going to average about 10 to 11 METs1. A MET stands for Metabolic Equivalent of Task, and can be thought of as a multiple of your metabolism at rest. In other words, jumping rope burns roughly ten times the amount of calories your body would burn while resting! From a caloric standpoint, a 150-pound person could expect to burn anywhere between 550 and 850 calories per hour while jumping rope, compared to 250-300 calories per hour for walking2. Due to the higher intensity, you can do less volume (time) to burn the same amount of calories. Therefore, jump rope works well as interval training or paired with another light-to-moderate type of cardiovascular exercise.
In summary, jumping rope is a cheap, accessible, and effective means of exercise. But I do have a couple of things to consider if you haven’t picked up a jump rope in a while. First, jumping rope is a higher impact activity than walking, so make sure you start out with just a little, and slowly build up. The most stress will be on the feet, ankles, and lower legs. While the right amount of stress builds strength, too much too soon can lead to injury! I recommend a cushioned shoe such as a running shoe while jumping to help mitigate some of the impact force. I also recommend starting with a standard double-leg hop, which will distribute the impact to both legs. Depending on your fitness level and how it feels, you might begin with a few short bouts of between 20-60 seconds. If you do the jumping in intervals, you could intersperse some body weight exercises, yoga movements, or mat exercises between bouts of jump rope to get a complete workout. Be sure to stretch afterwards, especially your calf muscles, and notice how your feet and legs feel the next day. If you are very sore, give yourself adequate rest before trying again, and perhaps be more conservative for your next round. Listen to your body as you slowly progress to more and more time, and as you become more comfortable and confident, you may begin to explore different styles such as running or skipping.
As with any exercise, be sure to have fun with it!
1Jetté, M.; Sidney, K.; Blümchen, G. (1990). “Metabolic Equivalents (METS) in Exercise Testing, Exercise Prescription, and Evaluation of Functional Capacity”. Clinical Cardiology. 13 (8): 555–565.
2Berardi, J.; Andrews, R. (2010). “The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition”. 312-315.