Jump ropes have long been a staple on the playground, but as an adult, is jumping rope good exercise? The short answer: absolutely. It's a great idea to put jump rope at the forefront of your fitness routine—especially if you're a runner. The two workouts go hand-in-hand for building your best possible cardio routine, and when it comes to choosing between jump rope vs running, you'll benefit from embracing both.
"I alternate between jumping rope and running, because both are great forms of cardiovascular exercise," says Joshua Vela, a NASM-certified personal trainer with DailyBurn. While running unquestionably has its fair share of benefits, jumping rope actually offers all of the same benefits... and then some. "Jumping rope and running share the same general goals," says Vela. He explains that both will help you increase overall longevity, build cardiovascular and mental health, maintain a healthy weight and bone density, reduce risk of disease, and increase oxygenated blood flow to your muscles.
Keep reading to find out why you should add a regular rope session into your routine, plus some fun ways to do it at home.
Benefits of Jumping Rope vs. Running
While some coordination is required, jumping rope is an efficient form of cardio that increases your heart rate and revs your metabolism. Here are a few key benefits of jump rope vs running.
1. It's good cardio
Is jump rope good cardio? That’s an often Googled question and we’re happy to report the answer is a resounding yes. In other words, forget spending an hour on the treadmill for the sake of your cardio routine—all you really need is a few minutes jumping rope. "The benefits of jumping rope for 10 minutes per day have been proven to be just as effective in terms of cardiovascular health and caloric expenditure as running for 30 minutes," says Vela. This means you can get your daily dose of cardio in three songs, flat.
2. It's low impact
There's no question that running is great for your cardiovascular health, but one thing it's not so good for? Your joints. "When done correctly, jumping rope can actually be lower impact on the joints than running," says Vela. "It's a great way for runners to train on off days to build ankle stability and even prevent shin splints." When done properly, the light, repetitive movements put less pressure on your knees than pounding the pavement mile after mile. "It's great for someone who may be nursing an injury that doesn't allow them to run," adds Joel Okaah, CPT, field support director with D1 Training.
3. It's great for strengthening
Jumping rope isolates the muscles in your calves and quads, and the repetitive bouncing on the balls of your feet serves to target and strengthen these areas with every swing of the rope. Plus, it's a great warm-up for the rest of your muscle-building routine. "Jump roping is similar to running the 300 to 800 meter in track and, when paired with strength training, may lead to greater results," says Joey Cifelli, a master trainer at Crunch Gym in New York City. Vela is a fan of super setting his strength training routine with five minutes of jumping rope to spike his heart rate and get the endorphins flowing.
4. It improves speed, agility, balance, and coordination
Need some extra work on speed? Grab a jump rope. "The activity is typically done in bouts of three minutes or less for multiple sets across and engages the type two muscle fibers," says Cifelli. "Jump rope is more effective than running for individuals focusing on quick-twitch facilitation." Need proof? There's a reason why jump ropes are such a longstanding staple in boxing gyms. And if you've ever tried jumping rope for yourself, you know that it's not exactly an easy feat. "Quick footwork and full-body coordination can be acquired with jumping rope," says Cifelli. According to Vela, it has a one-up on running in this sense, because running requires the sort of "locomotion movement we're all innately programmed for," he says. Plus, jumping up and down over a rope requires a certain level of hand-eye coordination and balance, and over time you'll see improvement in those areas, too.
5. It’s convenient and budget-friendly
Given that so many folks have busy schedules (same), the convenience of jumping rope is certainly a big pro. “It’s compact and easy to pack, so it’s a great cardio option for traveling,” says Vanessa Liu, an online certified fitness trainer and nutritionist. Plus, rather than spending hundreds of dollars on a treadmill, jump rope is an inexpensive way to do cardio at home. File that under benefits of jump rope. There are even cordless jump ropes available, so you can get your heart rate up without breaking a few lamps.
How To Jump Rope
Before you add a jump rope into your routine, it's important that you know what you're doing—and proper form is key. “Practice without the rope and get into the proper position,” says trainer Amanda Kloots in a recent episode of Well+Good's The Right Way. “Jumping rope is a rhythm—the rope hits, you jump. Your foot rhythm and your hand rhythm have to be the same.”
A few other things to keep in mind? “You never want to jump higher than the rope is thick,” says Kloots, who explains that this is an unnecessary expenditure of energy and will tire you out more quickly than necessary. Hold your arms out at a 90-degree angle so that the rope forms a perfect circle around your body, and engage your core to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your (jumping) feet.
The type of surface you jump on also matters. “Jumping on a hard surface, like concrete, would have more impact on your joints since there’s not much shock absorption,” Liu says. “If you have sensitive joints or knee and ankle issues, I would try to avoid jumping on concrete or asphalt. If possible, jump on a softer surface, like rubber tiles, or even a yoga mat.”
Another pro tip to keep in mind for the best jump rope experience: Wear a supportive sports bra. Liu notes that the constant jumping up and down motion will require more support than you’d normally need during a run.
How to jump rope the right way:
How To Incorporate Jump Rope Into Your Routine
When you're first starting out with a jump rope, start simple and go from there. "Start with the basics and work your way up to more complex jump rope workouts that challenge your tempo and isolate different parts of your body," says Okaah. If you're really new to the art of jump roping, you can start by training yourself to jump at a regular cadence while swinging your arms without the rope, then add the equipment when you're ready. At first, you can challenge yourself to jump for one minute straight, then build up to three-minute rounds, which can be integrated into your warmup or used as a cardio break between strength-training intervals.
Once you've got the classic jump down, you can up the intensity with some more complicated movements:
1. Single Leg Jump
To really isolate your calf muscles, spend your interval jumping exclusively on one foot. By the end of the round, you'll be seriously feeling the burn in your lower body.
2. Alternating Foot Jump
If you want to further enhance your coordination, try jumping back and forth from one foot to the other. This will help with your balance and agility, and takes so much focus that it will be impossible to think about anything else during your workout.
3. Double Unders
To spike your heart rate, try swinging the rope around twice with every jump.
4. A Full Routine
Ready for a full-scale jump-roping class? Follow along with the video above for a routine that will leave your heart racing in the best possible way.
FAQs About Jump Rope vs. Running
What’s the jump rope equivalent to running 1 mile?
When you’re pressed for time but you want to get some cardio in fast, Lui says jumping rope for 10 minutes is about the equivalent of running an 8-minute mile.
Is jump rope better cardio than running?
According to Liu, jump rope isn’t necessarily better cardio than running, but she does consider it a more efficient way to do cardio. “Because of the constant jumping, it gets your blood pumping and heart rate up pretty fast,” she says.
Does jump rope burn more calories than running?
Technically, yes jumping rope does burn more calories than running, but that alone is not reason enough to ditch running all together. “Jump rope burns a bit more calories than running, but the difference isn’t as vast as one might think,” Liu says. “In my opinion, the difference isn't enough to pick jump rope over running solely based on calorie burn. My suggestion is to pick the option that you enjoy the most and can stick to long term.”
Is there anyone who should avoid jump rope?
Liu says jumping rope is generally safe for most people, even if you have sensitive joints—just start off slow and be sure to practice proper form while jumping. “If you do have sensitive joints, I recommend giving yourself a trial period,” she says. “Jump rope for six to eight weeks and if it still doesn’t feel right, then look for another cardio option.” Furthermore, if you’re pregnant and in your second trimester, Liu advises avoiding any high intensity exercises including jump rope to be safe.
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