Jump Rope Your Way to Health

Remember 1977, when Rocky Balboa got everyone into a pair of sweatpants and running shoes, running up and down their block in a huff and a puff on their way to extreme health? The jogging craze has come a long way since then, and it has gotten more and more popular. After all, all you need is a pair of decent running shoes and a place to hoof it. But what if you’re one of the millions of people who isn’t seduced by the flashy images of America’s favorite boxer running up the stairs of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art? Running isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you’re out of the health game. Getting and staying healthy is all about finding what works, what you enjoy, and what you can integrate into a daily routine.

Tip number one? If you didn’t enjoy Rocky, or Rocky 2, for that matter, don’t give up on the boxers! Boxing is a physically challenging sport, and the very exercises boxers use to keep them in the ring have been integrated by some of the country’s most popular fitness classes. Kick boxing, for example, has been a cardio and muscle building staple of chi chi sport clubs for years. Just on the fringe of popularity lies the next frontier of boxing influenced exercising: jumping rope. The good news? Jumping rope can be as fun as it ever was, and you still get excellent health benefits. Remember playing double dutch in the school playground? Back then exercise wasn’t called exercise; it was called fun. And jumping rope can be a fun way for you to shed pounds, gain muscle and strengthen your cardiovascular system.

Health advantages:
1. Cardiovascular strengthening–running is a great activity for increasing cardiovascular conditioning, but it’s by no means the only, or even the best, for your heart. Jumping rope places immediate stress upon your cardiovascular system. Don’t get this confused with the ‘bad stress.’ Think of it as a gentle prod to the ‘ol system, sort of like a jump start, to get things going. After a few weeks of consistent jumping, you’ll notice less huffing and puffing in activities which used to take the wind our of your sails. That’s a sure sign of increasing fitness and endurance.

2. Fat loss–jumping rope combines calorie busting cardio activity with even more calorie busting muscle strengthening. The greater your proportion of lean muscle to fat, the greater number of calories you’ll burn throughout the day. Remember, it’s muscles that do a lot of calorie burning for you. So you’ll lose weight and look great!

3. Muscle development–want to look good and feel great? It’s not a health shake or a diet soda packed with the latest ‘newly discovered herb’ that will do it for you. It’s the development of muscles. And I’m not talking Arnold Schwartzenegger here, so don’t fear. You’re not going to pack on the big biceps this way. But you will develop the toning muscles often associated with an attractive body. While you’re not lifting weights, jumping rope requires a great deal of muscle strength. Don’t be surprised if you’re sore for a few days after your first try! A little pain, however, will go a long way toward a lot of gain in terms of health and self image.

4. Increase bone density–this one may come as a surprise, but not only does jumping rope increase your muscle mass, but it’ll also increase your bone mass. Specifically, you can expect the greatest improvement to take place in your ankles, legs and even hips. It makes sense, if you think about it: your bones respond to the degree of stress placed upon them. With each jump, your bones accommodate this new activity by kicking the bone production into gear. Studies have indicated that women in their 70’s and 80’s have actually increased their density by 3-8% just by stamping their feet on the ground for five minutes a day. By engaging in this childhood activity, you can actually keep your bones young!

5. Increase Co-ordination–some of us lost it a long time ago, and some of us never had it in the first place. What may have made us feel oafish and inelegant in our youth, however, can have even more serious consequences as we age. Good co-ordination is essential to avoiding falls. Some of the more debilitating injuries of older age come from falls which can lead to broken bones. Prevent that fall by maintaining a sense of balance through skipping rope.

Advice:
1. Start slow–don’t expect to get out in your backyard and skip like a pro. It takes time to get back into the swing of things. The best plan is to have low expectations. Tell yourself you want to learn to just jump the rope successfully 5 times. Keep untangling yourself until you get it. Then, if you want to continue, go ahead! But remember, this is an activity which integrates concentration, balance, strength and cardiovascular health. When you pick up jumping rope, you’re not just picking up one activity, so take it easy!

2. Get a decent rope–this isn’t an expensive sport. Just about any shoes will be just fine, but you don’t want to scrimp on the rope. If your rope is made of plastic, chuck it. You want a nice rope with wooden handles. Even the top of the line rope shouldn’t set you back too much. Things to look for? Make sure the rope is actually a rope, not a rubber tube. The handles should be of either a high grade plastic or wood material. The best handles have bearings inside where the rope attaches, so the rope swings as you jump. It may seem like a small thing, but it makes a big difference.

3. Make it fun–remember how exercising used to be a joy. Don’t push yourself to the point where the joy no longer exists. Put on some nice music, music that gets you enthused. If you have children, buy them a rope and you can exercise together. You’ll enjoy the activity more and keep with it longer if you lighten up, have fun, and go easy on yourself.

4. Enjoy your progress–start off slow, but continue with an ever increasing goal in mind. It may be a good idea to keep a log of your progress. If you can only do five minutes your first day, try doing five and a half the next, and so on. Eventually, you’ll be skipping 15, 20 or even thirty minutes a day. Reward yourself. Find incentives to keep you going to extra mile. And whatever you do, don’t stop jumping. Your body will thank you for it for years to come.

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