The lowly jump rope won't win any prizes for flash or sophistication. It's the epitome of old school. But, when you think of the humble jump rope, think of the generations of boxers who have used it every day in the gym, from Muhammad Ali to Hilary Swank in "Million Dollar Baby." There's a reason why the jump rope still is found in most every gym in the 21st century. It's small, convenient and easy to use. It also provides a range of benefits that can do wonders for your health and fitness.
Jumping up and down might not seem to get you anywhere, but a session of jumping rope is an excellent cardio workout. Cardio workouts increase the ability of your system to transfer blood and oxygen to and from your heart to the rest of your body. Jumping rope builds your endurance, strengthens your heart, lungs and arteries, and can help keep major illnesses such heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes at bay. As the FITDAY website explains, low-to-moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, biking and jumping rope, when done most of the days of the week, constitutes a fine cardio workout. Competitive athletes, such as boxers, use the jump rope much more vigorously during training so they can get the endurance that enables them to go 10 rounds or more.
Coordination and Stability
It's not easy to jump for an extended period without missing a beat or tripping over your feet. Once you can jump repeatedly on two feet, you can vary the pace and rhythm, jump on one foot or perform various tricks. A jump rope is also great for building ankle stability, according to the STACK website. This helps prevent ankle sprains, one of the banes of any athlete competing in basketball, soccer or any other sport requiring sudden stops, starts and quick cuts.
Speed and Strength
If you push yourself through a jump rope session, increasing your speed as you go, you'll see improvements in quickness, agility and reaction time, reports the STACK website. Jumping rope also simulates the pounding you take in many athletic events, helping to increase the strength in your feet and ankles. Try jumping rope barefoot in the grass or on a rubberized surface to build even more strength.
Jumping rope is often used for rehab purposes. When you first begin rehabbing a foot, ankle or knee injury you'll want to start with a very low-impact activity such as riding a stationary bike or swimming, reports Human Kinetics. You can then progress to jumping rope, which strengthens the muscles, including the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes, as well as the ligaments and tendons that protect the feet, ankles and knees. Start off jumping only inches off the ground and land lightly on the balls of your feet. Consult a doctor or trainer before beginning rehab exercises.
The humble rope can assist you in losing weight. You have to drop 3,500 calories to lose one pound, and a healthy way to lose weight is to shoot for a reduction of one pound per week. That means you'll have to burn 700 calories every day. A 30-minute jump rope session burns off about 300 calories. If you eliminate another 400 calories per day from your diet, you'll be right on target to lose one pound per week without torturing yourself. If you have been inactive, check with your doctor before starting a jump rope routine or any other exercise routine.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.