by: Dr. Darrell M. Schreyer, D.C.
Research done has found that jumping rope to be very effective in improving cardiovascular fitness, as well as increasing strength and flexibility. According to studies published in Residents Quarterly, ten minutes of jumping rope is more effective for the heart then jogging for 30 minutes.
Skipping rope has also been found to reduce tension and raise energy levels. Participants in experiments at Illinois University's Physical Fitness Research Center were studied while skipping rope during a 60 minute, five day a week, ten week period. The results were greater leg and knee strength, increased calf size, better jumping ability, and faster running speed. They were also found to be more agile, more flexible, and their hearts were found to have become stronger.
Some sources say that skipping could even be an aspirin alternative. Why? Because exercising vigorously produces a high level of natural opiate in the body in response to strenuous activity. This opiate, called beta-endorphin, is a hormone-like substance produced by the brain and the pituitary gland that increases the tolerance for pain and creates a feeling of well-being. The more physically fit a person, the greater quantity and more rapidly beta-endorphins are produces in the body.
Jumping rope will burn off 720 calories and hour (at 120-140 turns per minute) which is the same as running at close to a six mile pace. This is twice the calorie burning workout of volleyball or tennis.
Beginners jump higher than more experienced jumpers and expose themselves unnecessarily to shin splints and other overuse injuries of the joints and muscles. With jogging, a direct heel strike occurs with energy directly transmitted to the ankles and knees. In jumping rope, the ball of the foot strikes first as the calf muscle is contracted, causing a greater absorption of shock as well as dissipation of energy evenly over the entire foot.
Like any form of exercise, jumping rope should be started in moderation. Staring too quickly usually will lead to injury or burnout. Use a jumping surface that is firm but cushioned. A low pile carpet or a carpet remnant on a wooden floor is fine, but both grass and concrete should not be exercised upon. Wear a well-cushioned athletic shoe to prevent ankle and leg injuries. Warm up with at least a five minute walk, then a slow stretching of the ankles, knees, calves, shins and upper legs.
Last but not least, the equipment is rather inexpensive and you can take it anywhere you go. Before you begin you should shop for a good rope. An investment of $10-$20 is recommended in one of the many scientifically designed ropes all sports shops carry. To test if the rope is the right length, stand on the rope and stand with your feet on the middle. If the length is right, the handles will just reach your armpits.