Although it was once used mostly by boxers, old-school calisthenics enthusiasts, and those under the age of 12, the jump rope is rapidly gaining popularity as a workout tool for the masses.
It’s surprising that it’s taken so long for this exercise tool to experience a renaissance, considering its benefits, which include improved coordination, high calorie-burn rate, and increased muscle mass from head to toe. So whether you’re a high-level athlete looking to up your game or a weekend warrior looking to improve your overall fitness, jumping rope is a great addition to your routine.
Brain and Body
For such a simple-looking exercise, jumping rope can be intimidating at first—you have to teach your legs to jump as your arms bring the rope to the right spot. This little bit of complexity is actually a good thing, because developing the coordination it takes for your brain and body to get on the same page helps improve your quickness and agility—crucial for many other sports. Plus, regular training results in improved balance and motor coordination, and balance and coordination are especially helpful in avoiding falls as you age.
One of the best benefits of jumping rope can be felt immediately: it’s a great cardio workout. The minute you pick up a rope and start jumping, your heart rate increases and your blood starts pumping. And the best part is that you can easily adjust the activity to your fitness level, ability, and workout style. Some people throw in a few minutes of jumping between weight sets. Others focus on lengthier jumping sessions or more intense speed. And jumping rope is a calorie-scorcher. You can burn between 10 and 16 calories per minute—a vigorous exercise in anyone’s book, and comparable to running on the treadmill at six miles per hour.
While the coordination, cardio, and calorie-burning benefits of jumping rope may be easy to see, the exercise also provides another significant but less obvious benefit: it makes your bones stronger. How? Bones respond to stress by becoming stronger and denser. And jumping provides just that kind of stress.
Finally, jumping rope is fun, affordable, and portable. It’s easy to throw a jump rope into a suitcase or gym bag, or tuck one in an office drawer. Then all you have to do is take it out and start jumping.
How to Get Started
There are endless ways to jump and countless techniques to try. If you’re starting out, approach cautiously, as you would any high-intensity interval exercise. Start with intervals of 30 seconds and rest periods of 60 seconds and work your way up to 60-second intervals. If you’re already an expert at straight rope jumping, explore variations like double-unders (rotating the rope twice between jumps) or half-jacks (jump and land with your feet shoulder-width apart, then back to center). You can also experiment with one-legged jumps or side-to-side jumping.
So go ahead—grab a rope and get jumping! We’ve even got a suggested jump-rope playlist below to get you started.
Jump Rope Playlist
“Jump,” Kris Kross
“Jump,” Van Halen
“Jump (For My Love),” The Pointer Sisters
“Jump Around,” House of Pain
“Badman Riddem (Jump),” Vato Gonzalez
“Get Up and Jump,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Jump, Jive and Wail,” Louis Prima
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” The Rolling Stones
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.