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Natural Awakenings National

Fun Moves: Jump Roping for Every Age

Feb 01, 2009 03:00AM ● By Beth Davis

Jumping rope has come a long way from playground days. While many still jump for fun, young and older fans alike have made it an international sport, boasting its own world championship. The childhood pastime has remained a popular form of exercise for athletes and fitness buffs.

The American Heart Association attests that jumping rope proves an excellent exercise for cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. It helps develop agility, balance, posture, reflexes and coordination, as well as building or maintaining healthy bones. Now, researchers are learning that jumping rope may also help prepare the brain for learning by raising the heart rate, which pumps more blood to the brain, feeding it needed nutrients and oxygen for heightened alertness and mental focus.

In the United States, the sport’s main coordinating organization is USA Jump Rope (USAJR), a nonprofit group comprising hundreds of jump roping teams and jumpers across the country. Teams attend workshops and training camps; perform for the public; and compete in tournaments at state, regional and national levels.

John Fletcher, USAJR’s operations manager, says that jumping rope is far more than recreation; it supports a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages. USAJR has enthusiastic jumpers ranging in age from 6 to 50. All age groups regularly compete in single-rope and Double Dutch competitions, including speed and freestyle categories. In the United States, the female record in the single-rope speed competition is 367 jumps in one minute. The comparable male single-rope record is 359. The Double Dutch pairs speed record clocked in at 879 jumps a minute.

“Rope jumping is attractive to such a wide range of individuals because of its numerous benefits,” remarks Fletcher. “It is convenient, inexpensive, easy to learn and works the entire body; plus, it’s fun.”

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) names rope jumping as one of the best forms of aerobic exercise. They explain that aerobic exercise enables our bodies to take in more oxygen so that we can breathe faster and more deeply, maximizing oxygen entering the bloodstream. That’s good for the heart, blood vessels, immune system, lungs and joints. More, it cuts through stress and lifts our mood.

In order to improve heart and lung health, jumping must be performed three to five times per week for 12 to 20 minutes at a stretch. The ACSM recommends trying 130 revolutions per minute, which is equal to running at 6 miles per hour or cycling at 12 miles per hour. Just 10 minutes of rope skipping is equivalent to a one-mile run.

René Bibaud is a five-time world rope jumping champion, artist and coach for Cirque de Soleil, the voice of ESPN for national jump rope championships and creator of Ropeworks, a company devoted to teaching jumping for fun and fitness. For those just getting started, Bibaud advises that finding a rope that fits is key. She recommends a dense, plastic rope, which should cost less than $10.

To make sure a rope fits, she counsels, stand on it with both feet and pull the sides up tightly next to the body in a U-shape. The top of the handles should come to the underarms.

Also invest in a good pair of athletic shoes, preferably a cross-training model, with extra support for the ball of the foot. This helps prevent excessive strain on the joints from rope jumping’s repetitive movements. Avoid jumping on hard surfaces, such as concrete or tile. Safe surfaces include a wood floor, rubber mat or sprung floor, such as those found in dance studios, which is designed to absorb shock.

Bibaud encourages newcomers to learn a few basic moves, followed by a few jump rope tricks. She grins: “The goal of learning new moves will entice you back for more.”

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