4 Benefits of Jumping Rope That'll Convince You to Give It a Try

Jumping rope improves your coordination, agility and strength.
Image Credit: Ali Trisno Pranoto/Moment/GettyImages

Jumping rope is not only a fun way to get a workout in — it's also an activity rooted in history. It's believed that jump rope has origins in ancient China, according to the International Rope Skipping Federation (IRSF). A game called "hundred rope jumping" was a favorite during the Chinese New Year Festival.

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Today, jump rope is still used for a number of fitness-related activities and is often incorporated as part of a high-intensity workout or as agility training for boxers.

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If you're looking to change up your fitness routine, consider adding a jump rope. It helps condition your weight-bearing joints (ankles, knees and hips) while providing a heart rate-raising workout that you may not even need to leave home — or your nearest sidewalk — for.

What Is Jumping Rope?

Jumping rope is a physical activity in which you use an appropriate-length rope (more on that below), hold one end of the rope in each hand, swing the rope over your head and in front of your body, then jump with both feet off the floor as the rope swings under you. Repeat this motion at varying speeds as your skills improve or your desire for a challenge with jump rope grows.

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You can use a jump rope for many different types of training. It's a popular tool with boxers to help them work on foot agility and cardiovascular fitness at the same time. Others may incorporate it into a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session because of how quickly jump rope can raise your heart rate. Jumping rope is also a fun way to change up a workout without investing in expensive gym equipment.

How to Jump Rope With Proper Form

Type Cardio
  1. Stand with your feet together, holding one end of the jump rope in each hand with the rope behind you. (Pretend you're jumping with an imaginary rope if you don't have one.)
  2. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, swing the rope with your wrists up over your head and allow it to fall toward your feet.
  3. Jump up with both feet before the rope hits your feet and repeat.

Benefits of Jumping Rope

There are plenty of benefits that can come from adding jump rope into your workout routine. Not only is it a fun way to move your body that may remind you of happy childhood memories, but it's a great way to work on coordination, cardiovascular fitness and muscle and bone resilience.

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1. It Improves Tendon Elasticity

Jump rope can help improve the elasticity of the tendons in your legs that support your joints, like the Achilles tendon in in your lower leg and the IT band near your knee, explains physical therapist Sarah Zimmer, PT, DPT, co-owner of Boulder Sports Physiotherapy.

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"These tendons work like a spring, loading to store energy and then releasing, and must have the appropriate amounts of stiffness and flexibility to store and then release energy to propel you," Zimmer tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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2. It Boosts Muscular Power in Your Lower Body

Similarly, the muscles of your legs and feet need training to improve their explosivity and agility.

Jumping rope can help train those muscles to propel you in a stronger, faster manner, which can be especially helpful in running or sports that require quick changes of speed and direction, like basketball and soccer, Zimmer says.

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3. It Enhances Cardiovascular Endurance

Jumping rope can improve cardiovascular endurance via HIIT-style training, according to Zimmer.

"Jumping rope is a great way to train the aerobic system in a short amount of time if you don't have time for a longer aerobic workout, like a run," she says. "Jumping rope can also be a good activity to use when recovering from or rehabbing an injury where you cannot yet tolerate longer runs, hikes or bike rides."

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4. It's a Good Mental Stimulus

Lastly, jumping rope is different — and potentially more fun — than a typical workout on the treadmill or elliptical. It may rekindle fond memories of jumping rope as a kid, and the challenge of acing the timing and coordination needed to successfully jump rope can be a good mental stimulus as well.

Drawbacks of Jumping Rope

As with anything, it is possible to have negative side effects if you dive into the world of jump rope too quickly.

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"Jumping rope requires timing and coordination, which if you aren't confident in those two things, can lead to it being a trip or fall risk," says Kate Ligler, CPT, a Colorado-based personal trainer and endurance sports coach.

Jumping rope can also be painful for some people, who may want to find an activity with less impact on their joints instead.

"For those with compromised joint health, the impact of jumping rope can be too challenging and painful due to the repetitive landing and jumping upwards motions," Ligler says. "Jumping rope is also not suitable for all fitness levels and should be incorporated at the guidance of a doctor or trainer. For example, if someone is extremely undertrained or on specific medications, jumping rope may be more of a risk than a benefit."

Due to its high-impact nature on your joints and muscles, jumping rope should be added carefully to your workout regimen.

"It's definitely possible to overdo it when it comes to jumping rope," Ligler says. "Doing too much jump rope without strategically easing into it can lead to an Achilles strain, plantar pain or even injury to the lower extremities."

Tips to Start Jumping Rope if You Never Have (or Haven't in a Long Time)

Because jumping rope is a high-impact activity, meaning that you place a large load of force on your body, it's best to begin slowly and carefully before ramping up your jumping rope frequency.

Zimmer suggests starting small and progressing slowly. Start with 5 to 10 minutes of jumping rope in intervals — 30 seconds of jumping and 1 minute of resting until your time is up. Try this one or two times a week to see how your body responds to jumping rope.

Additionally, Zimmer recommends jumping rope early in your workout. Because jumping rope is a high-impact movement, doing it before other exercises will ensure your tendons and joints aren't fatigued from other aspects of your workout when jumping rope.

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How to Find the Right Jump Rope Length for You

Selecting an appropriately sized jump rope for your height and goals is key to maximizing jumping rope benefits and avoiding injuries or tripping on the rope. There are a couple of ways to see if a jump rope is the right length for you.

A jump rope should be no longer than three feet plus your total height in feet, according to Zimmer. So, if you are 5 feet tall, your jump rope should not be longer than 8 feet long.

Another way to tell if a jump rope is the right length for you to is to stand in the middle of the jump rope so hat the left and right sides are of an even length, and pull the rope up toward your armpits gently. If the rope handles come to your mid-chest or armpit area, the rope is an appropriate length for you, Ligler says.

If the rope is drastically shorter and reaches only your lower torso or is too long and extends up to your head, the jump rope isn't an appropriate size for you and may cause injury if you use it.

How Long Should You Jump Rope to Reap Benefits?

The amount of time you should jump rope for in order to reap benefits will vary drastically from person to person, Ligler says.

Your fitness level, coordination and how long you've been jumping rope for are al major factors in how long it may take. The type of rope you use may play a factor, too — a wire or plastic rope will take less effort to move over and around your body than a weighted rope.

One small April 2015 study in the ‌Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research‌ found when participants jumped rope for 15 seconds and rested for 45 seconds repeatedly for 10 minutes, their heart rate, blood lactate and exercise and resting oxygen uptakes all increased. This led the researchers conducting the study to conclude that a 10-minute bout of high-intensity jump rope can, over time, help improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.

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"Consistency is important when it comes to seeing benefits from jumping rope," Ligler says. "Someone who jumps every day for 1 to 3 minutes may see agility and lower leg strength benefits in just a couple weeks. Someone who only jumps rope once a week may not see results for several months."

Cardiovascular and weight loss benefits from jumping rope will "demand a little duration," Liger says. It can take jumping rope for 75 minutes per week to start seeing basic aerobic and weight loss benefits, which is the base level needed for moderate-to-intense exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Jump Rope Form Tips

Jumping rope requires good form in order to prevent injury and maximize the benefits from jumping rope.

Having a properly sized rope for your height is the first important step. An appropriate-length rope will help foster good jump rope form.

Zimmer notes the following as being critical for good jump rope form:

  • Keep your back straight — but not rigid.
  • Keep your core engaged for stability as you jump and land.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees and as you land. Aim to land softly, using your leg muscles and core to offset the impact.
  • Jump from the balls of your feet, not the middle or heels of your feet.
  • With a secure yet relaxed grip from your hands, use your wrists — not your entire arm — to rotate the rope over and under your body.

Be sure to talk with a doctor, trusted health care provider or certified fitness instructor if you're unsure of your jump rope form. Jumping with incorrect form can lead to injury and muscle or joint irritation.

How Many Calories Does Jumping Rope Burn?

If you're wondering how many calories jumping rope burns, it's different for everyone.

Jumping rope burns 500 calories per hour for someone who is 100 pounds, 750 calories per hour for someone who is 150 pounds and 1,000 calories per hour for someone who is 200 pounds, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

It's not realistic to jump rope for hour straight, so let's break those numbers down: Jumping rope will burn 25 calories every 3 minutes for someone who is 100 pounds, 37.5 calories every 3 minutes for someone who is 150 pounds and 50 calories every 3 minutes for someone who is 200 pounds.

Jumping rope can be an efficient and effective calorie-burning activity when done with proper form and clearance from a medical or fitness professional.

An Important Note About Calories and Weight Loss

The science of weight management is rapidly changing, and weight loss is more nuanced than “eat less, exercise more.” Yes, cutting and burning calories is a key component of weight loss, but there's much more to it. Your ability to lose weight can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including your genetics, sleep quality, insulin resistance, hormones, gut health and how you manage stress.

And, reducing exercise to nothing more than calories burned can lead to disordered behaviors. You can be sure you're making the best choices for your health when you get physical activity you enjoy.

Talk to your doctor before you make any big changes to your exercise routine. They can help you determine if your weight-loss plan is healthy and appropriate for you based on your medical history, health status and medications.

How to Add Jumping Rope to Your Workout

It's important to be methodical about adding jumping rope to your existing workout routine. Don't rush into long, intense jump rope intervals. Instead, start slowly and with intention.

Ligler suggests first warming up before beginning to jump rope. Ensure that your feet, calves and shoulders have been activated with some light cardio, like power walking and stretching.

You can first practice jumping rope by laying the rope in a straight line in front of you and jumping over it forward and then backward to begin understanding the movements needed to jump and land.

You can also practice jumping in place, making sure to keep your shoulders back, your chest open and a slight bend in your knees. Keep your elbows and wrists close to the sides of your body and maintain a forward gaze. Jump in place and move your wrists and hands in small circles as if you were holding a rope. When this motion feels comfortable without a rope, you can then add in the right length rope for you.

Keep your total jumping time short to start and gauge how your joints and muscles initially feel after a couple of jump rope sessions, Ligler says. Jumping for intervals of 15 or 30 seconds with a 1-minute break in between for 5 to 10 minutes is a great place to start.

Once you feel comfortable with the coordination and intervals, you can increase the intensity of jumping rope with a weighted rope, faster steps or longer jumping intervals.

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