By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Jumping rope isn’t just a childhood game for recess but a fun fitness activity that can be enjoyed by adults as well.
All different kinds of athletes use the skipping motion as a way to condition and improve several physical and even mental skills. Many people can probably recall actor Sylvester Stallone jumping rope during his exercise montage to motivational music when he played a boxer in “Rocky.” Boxers use the activity to build stamina along with several other athletic abilities.
Lucie Bergeyova, physical education and family consumer science lead teacher at Boyertown Area Senior High School, jumped regularly when growing up in the Czech Republic. She used the fitness game as a way to condition for the national biathlon team she was part of which involves cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
“It (jumping rope) is a total body exercise because it involves pretty much most of the major muscle groups,” Bergeyova said adding that you can strengthen your biceps, core, quads and abs.
Depending on the length and intensity, jumping rope can have the same benefits as jogging, swimming, tennis and more, according to The Jump Rope Institute website www.jumpropeinstitute.com. U.S. Olympian Buddy Lee founded the institute in 1996 to inform people about the health benefits of the activity. The website also stated that jumping rope can help the brain develop leading to increased memory, better reading skills and more.
Although jumping rope is often thought of as a kids’ game, it can be a very intensive exercise for adults as well. Bergeyova said it’s important for both children and adults to understand the basics. First, she recommends using an inexpensive plastic speed rope which is also safe for kids. Once you have the right equipment, it’s time to work on your technique. She said don’t bend your knees or jump too high; just enough to clear the rope on the ground. Arms should be kept at your sides and only the wrist needs to turn to swing the rope. Bergeyova also suggests doing other strength building exercises to help improve jump rope skills.
After people understand the basics then they can move on to more advanced moves. Bergeyova said as a physical education teacher, she always tries to incorporate jump ropes into warmups because it can help improve so many different skills. The activity can improve agility, coordination, timing, lower body strength and more.
“There are so many components that you can cover just with simple jump roping. You don’t need much space,” she said.
Bergeyova said her jump rope demonstrations are similar to the popular Punk Rope fitness class. Personal trainer Tim Haft founded the class in 2004 in New York City. People can burn about 600 calories during the class which includes cardio, balance and rhythm. Bergeyova said there is a lot more to jumping rope than just the basic method. For variety, people can change up their footwork, use a partner, or even use a long jump rope. Depending on the activity, you can target a specific area of the body or a skill you want to improve.
Lower body strength: To target the lower body, jump on one foot at a time. People can also use high knees, heel kicks or toe taps while jumping rope to improve lower body strength. These activities will also help improve coordination.
Arm fitness: Rope swings can be done by standing or walking in place then swinging the rope from side to side with your arm. “Stir the pot” is when you spin the rope in a circle in front of your body in a whisking motion. The “grass cutter” is spinning the rope on the floor then jumping over it. The “licorice wrap” is binding the jump rope around your arm. These activities are a great for when you get tired from jumping up and down continuously but still want to do something active.
Working with a partner: The “twins” activity is when two people have their own rope but jump side by side at the exact same time. A “spoons” activity is when a person is right in front of a partner and the two use one rope to jump together. Partner jump rope activities help children learn how to work as a team and communicate with one another.
Jumping as a group: A whole group can jump together by using a long jump rump which is also a lot of fun. Group exercises are a great idea for families. One activity includes four people swinging two ropes at the same time that are crisscrossed then others jump in and out. Another group activity is to have two people swing one long jump rope then have someone in the middle with their own jump rope.
Bergeyova said jumping rope is a great fitness activity that can be done in numerous ways. She said it’s something both children can enjoy and older adults because it’s easy on the joints when jumping correctly.
“It’s just fun and it’s an awesome workout too. It burns a lot of calories,” she said.
To learn more about the Punk Rope fitness class and watch videos of different jumping demonstrations, visit the website timhaft.com. For more healthy living stories including recipes, visit the Fit for Life website www.pottsmercfit4life.com.