Do you file jumping rope under the "play and games" category or under "one serious workout"? Somewhere between the double dutch games of playgrounds past and a boxer's intense, jump rope-twirling warmup, there lives a delightful middle ground where you can have fun and burn enough calories. With a jump rope workout, it's possible to lose weight in just a half-hour to one hour per day.
You can pull off your own jump rope transformation by balancing a healthy, nutrient-rich diet with 30 to 60 minutes of jumping rope per day. But for optimal health and results, you should include other exercises too.
Jump Rope for Weight Loss
At its core, your weight loss plan could boil down to "eat less, jump rope more." But it's probably no surprise that there's a little more to consider than that.
If weight loss is your primary goal, then you need to find the right balance between diet and exercise to establish a calorie deficit or burn more calories than you take in. Estimating calories-burned-to-weight-lost is a rough science but, in general, a calorie deficit of about 3,500 equates to a pound of fat lost.
Jumping rope is deceptively hard, given the relatively small movements involved, so it doesn't take very long to put that rope to work and build up an impressive calorie deficit. Consider some numbers from Harvard Health Publishing:
If you weigh 155 pounds and jump rope for half an hour, you'll burn about 372 calories, which translates to around three pounds of fat lost per month. If you weigh 185 pounds and jump rope for the same time, you'll burn about 444 calories or around four pounds per month — all without making any other changes to your diet. Double your workout time to 60 minutes per day, and you'll burn twice as many calories.
Here's another thing to love about jumping rope: Because your jump rope is so small and light, it makes a great tool for staying fit when you travel.
Eat for Healthy Weight
Skipping rope and its benefits may be the most exciting part of this weight loss plan, but don't forget about your diet. You need healthy, nutrient-rich foods to stay healthy and fuel all that rope jumping. Emphasizing lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-quality proteins like fish, nuts and seeds can help you feel strong and energetic while also emphasizing nutrient intake over calorie intake.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offers a helpful chart to help you estimate your daily calorie needs according to your age, gender and activity level. For example, an active 30-year-old woman needs about 2,400 calories per day — but that number is to maintain her body weight, not to lose weight.
Adding your jump rope workouts may be enough to establish a calorie deficit. However, you can create an even bigger calorie deficit by slightly decreasing your calorie intake.
Again, estimating exactly how many calories you have to burn is a rough science. But using the commonly accepted 3,500 calories per pound rule, which estimates that if your total calorie deficit is 500 calories per day, you're on track to lose about a pound of weight per week. If it's 1,000 calories per day, you're on track to lose about two pounds per week.
The National Institutes of Health notes that women can generally lose weight safely on 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, and men can lose weight safely on 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day.
Women should not go below 1,200 calories per day, nor men below 1,500 calories per day (some sources say 1,800) without a doctor's advice and supervision.
Cross-Training for Health
There's always a catch, right? In this case, the catch is that even if jumping rope is your happy place and you're very good at it, doing only one thing repeatedly for 30 to 60 minutes per day, every day, puts you at risk of eventual overuse injuries. You can reduce that risk — and maybe even speed your weight loss along by exposing your body to new stimuli — by cross-training with different workouts.
The good news here is that once you enter the brave new world of cross-training — basically, doing different "stuff" to keep moving in between jump rope workouts — the world really is your oyster. You can use all the exercise machines in the gym. Go walking, running or hiking outside. Take a long swim if that's what you want.
Go for a bike ride or take that group fitness class you've been wondering about. You can even sign up for challenging dance lessons. The idea is simply to mix up your physical activity and keep your body guessing. With this approach, you'll also recover faster in between your jump rope workouts.
Don't forget to leave yourself at least one rest day per week to avoid overtraining — take that day of (relative) rest into account when you calculate your calorie intake and expenditure.
Variations on Jumping Rope
There's one other thing to consider: If you love jumping rope now, will you still love it after you've put in 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week? A weight loss program is only as good as your willingness to stick to it over the long term.
In addition to mixing up your jump rope workouts with other exercises, go ahead and introduce variations on jumping rope, too. These could include:
- The boxer skip (shifting your weight from one side to the other to reduce the stress with every jump)
- High knees
- Butt kicks
- Side swings
- Jumping rope jacks (alternate between wide feet and narrow feet)
- Double unders
If you're looking for a fun way to stay motivated and really get the most possible out of your jump rope workout, you could even join — or form — a jump rope team. These teams might train for performance, competition or both, and they can include a wide variety of tricks on single ropes or team ropes (think along the lines of playground double dutch with two people swinging the ropes while another jumps).
If it's a sense of play that inspires you to jump rope for weight loss, you might also enjoy participating in recreational sports leagues such as soccer, Frisbee, flag/touch football, softball or baseball and so on. You'll even find adult kickball leagues in some locations.
- National Institutes of Health: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- Health.gov: "Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov: "10 Tips: Build a Healthy Meal"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"