Is Jumping Rope a Good Cardio Workout?

Fit woman runner warming up outdoors
Jumping rope improves fitness and bone density. (Image: Hi-Photo/iStock/GettyImages)

The sight of a jump rope might bring back memories of your middle school days, when jumping and skipping was something that came naturally and effortlessly. It's harder for most adults than it is for kids, but that challenge makes it a very effective cardiovascular workout.

Jumping rope improves fitness, burns a lot of calories and has other benefits that may make you want to give the popular childhood activity another go. Here are 5 reasons to add jump roping into your cardio routine.

1. Jumping Rope Burns Calories

Almost everyone wants to be leaner, and it's a big reason people do cardio regularly. The number of calories you burn doing a particular activity matters if you want to shed fat.

Jumping rope will not disappoint. According to Harvard Medical School Publications, a 125-pound person can burn 300 calories jumping rope for 30 minutes. A heavier person will burn more calories — around 372 for a person weighing 155 pounds, and 444 for someone who weighs 185 pounds.

Jump roping burns as many calories in 30 minutes as running at a pace of 6 miles per hour, swimming laps at a vigorous pace, and cycling at a speed of 14 to 15.9 miles per hour. Combining regular jump roping sessions with a healthy diet is great way to maintain your weight or lose weight.

2. It Improves Cardiovascular Fitness

When you engage in exercise and other strenuous activities, your heart and lungs have to work harder than usual. Your heart pumps fresh oxygenated blood to your muscles to power activity, and your lungs expand to draw in that oxygen. Doing strenuous activities like jumping rope challenges your cardiovascular system, which makes it adapt and grow stronger.

If you've tried jumping rope lately, you know just how challenging it is. After a couple minutes, you likely broke a sweat and found it hard to breath and talk. That's a good sign that you're getting an effective cardiovascular workout.

You can wear a heart rate monitor to gauge whether you're working hard enough. A good goal is to aim for 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can estimate your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.

3. It's Very Versatile

You don't need much equipment — just the rope — and you can do it virtually anywhere. As long as you can jump, you can jump rope. For those less conditioned, a slower jumping speed will be easier yet still garner results. Those with a better level of fitness can jump very fast for a more challenging workout, or even do double unders or triple unders for an extreme challenge.

Jump roping can be incorporated into a high-intensity interval workout. This type of training is better at burning fat and increasing cardiovascular fitness — and in less time — than steady-state cardio.

To do jump rope intervals, jump vigorously for one minute, then recover at a slower pace for one minute and repeat the intervals for 20 minutes. You can also work intervals of jump roping into a circuit workout, in which you do different body weight and free weight exercises with bouts of jump roping worked in.

4. It Builds Muscular Endurance

The repetitive action of jumping and turning the rope builds muscular endurance — the ability of your muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance. Muscular endurance helps you complete everyday tasks, such as climbing stairs and raking leaves, with ease. It also helps you perform better in sports and prevents muscular injuries due to fatigue.

5. Jump Roping Strengthens Bones

Any activity that places stress and impact on your bones helps to strengthen them. The load placed on the bones causes them to adapt, becoming stronger and denser. This decreases the risk of fractures and age-related diseases such as osteoporosis.

In a study published in the journal Bone in October 2015, osteopenic men who did jump training a few times a week saw marked increases in bone mineral density throughout the body. Osteopenia is a condition in which bone density is lower than normal, but not so low as to be classified as osteoporosis.

Another study performed by University of Missouri-Columbia researchers confirmed that performing weight-bearing activities such as jump roping a few times a week reduces the risk of osteopenia.

A Few Considerations

Jump roping is a great cardiovascular workout, but it isn't right for everyone. If you have joint issues, the impact may be too much and can exacerbate pain and inflammation. If you have a lot of weight to lose, jumping rope isn't the best exercise to start with because of the impact.

When you're jumping, try to do so on a soft surface or wear supportive shoes. Land lightly on the balls of your feet with bent knees and spring back up to lessen the impact on your knees and ankles.

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