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Go ahead and jump, but do it just like this

Someone told me that jumping rope is the best cardio exercise you can do -- and that it burns more calories than even running. I started jumping rope, but could do it only for a few minutes before I had to stop. Can you give me any suggestions for doing it more effectively, and for building my stamina so I can do it for a longer period of time?

Amy

Venice Beach

Jumping rope is an outstanding cardiovascular activity and, because it’s portable, can be done almost anywhere. Depending on how fast you jump, you can burn 5 to 15 calories per minute. Not only can jumping rope improve your agility, balance and coordination, it’s fun and engaging.

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But jumping rope has some downsides. Most people find it difficult to do for a long period of time because they can’t keep the rope turning without eventually losing their rhythm and stepping on the rope. Plus, because jumping is a big calorie burner, it is also tough to do for a long time without losing your breath. Finally, while the impact can help you build or maintain healthy bones, it can also be tough to tolerate for an extended period.

Here are some tips to improve your jump-roping success:

Wear a good pair of supportive athletic shoes to minimize the impact on your feet and joints.

Use a jump rope that is heavy enough for you to hold a steady rhythm and long enough for the ends of the rope to reach your armpits when you stand on the center of the rope.

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Maintain good posture while jumping rope by pulling your shoulders slightly back, bracing your abdomen and keeping your shoulders pulled down away from your ears.

Look straight ahead while jumping (not down), keep your knees slightly bent and take off and land on the balls of your feet.

Relax your arms by your sides, and turn the rope by making smaller circles with your wrists rather than making bigger circles with your shoulders.

Alternate rope-jumping with marching in place (or power walking) to build your stamina and skill over time. Start by doing 30 seconds of each, then increasing to 1 minute of each and so on. When you feel more comfortable with your stamina and skill, begin continuous jump-roping for as long as you are comfortable (taking short breaks as necessary). Eventually, you will be able to jump rope continuously without stopping.

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Once you have mastered jumping rope, there are plenty of ways to keep it interesting, including jump timing variations, new footwork and increased jumping speed. You need never get bored. Videos on jumping rope (available online) can teach you how to advance while keeping the activity interesting.

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Blahnik is a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman.

jay@jayblahnik.com

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