If you’re looking for an effective cardio option, jumping rope is one of the best exercises you can do, says DiPaolo. “It gets your heart rate up really quickly,” she explains. That’s because it involves so many different muscle groups working together at once.
Jumping rope is a vigorous-intensity activity, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers one minute of vigorous-intensity activity about the same as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity (which includes things like walking fast or playing doubles tennis) in terms of health benefits (for instance, reduced risks of heart disease and diabetes). That means you can incorporate jump rope into your workout to get the same benefits as moderate-intensity activity in about half the time.
Jumping rope is full-body strengthening. “It’s really head-to-toe engagement the entire time,” says Mosbarger. The movement especially targets your legs, says Ezekh (think: calves, quads, and hamstrings, as well as the muscles in your feet and ankles). And it also works your core, biceps, and shoulders, says DiPaolo. What’s really neat is that you don’t have to actively think about engaging all of these muscle groups at once while you jump—it tends to just happen naturally, says Mosbarger.
Jumping rope can help build bone density as a result of the impact of jumping, says Dr. Nwachukwu. Indeed, a small 2015 study of premenopausal women showed that jump rope can improve hip bone mineral density. This matters because bone density tends to decrease with age, explains Dr. Nwachukwu, which can lead to conditions including osteomalacia (pronounced softening of the bones) and osteoporosis, and predispose you to fractures. By building bone density through activities like jumping rope, you can reduce your risk of these issues, he says. If you already have osteoporosis, though, it’s best to ask your doctor first before starting exercise like jumping rope, since the high impact may be harmful to already weakened bones, the Mayo Clinic says.
Proper jump rope form involves moving from the balls of your feet, and that helps develop good footwork and agility, explains Ezekh. This benefit of jump rope translates especially well to sports where you have to change direction very quickly, says Ezekh. Think: boxing, basketball, and volleyball.
Jumping rope requires a lot of coordination, says Mosbarger. Your hands, feet, and sometimes even eyes all need to work together to ensure you swing the rope properly, jump over it at the right time, and then repeat the pattern at a steady cadence. This high level of coordination may feel super challenging at first, but stick with it and you’ll see your baseline skills improve. As this happens, you’ll be able to tackle new footwork patterns and tricks with the rope, which can keep the activity feeling fresh and fun.
Once you master basic jump rope technique, you can up the ante with moves like the double under. Doing a double under demands a more forceful, higher jump, which means practicing this move can be a good way to increase your explosive power, says Ezekh. That, in turn, can serve you well in sports like volleyball, where vertical jumps are really important, he says.
Jumping rope can be an effective way to boost your balance. A small 2015 study of young soccer players concluded that jumping rope as part of a regular soccer program can be an additional method to improve balance (as well as motor coordination). As the study explains, when you jump rope, you have to re-establish your balance in between each jump, and you also need good balance in order to effectively jump up again. Other research finds that lower muscular power (which you can train by jumping) can correlate to better agility, and thus better balance. You can also do certain jump rope drills—like jumping on just the ball of one foot, or jumping from side to side—to further challenge your balance, says DiPaolo.
Although it’s pretty intense, jumping rope can actually be a very meditative activity. “I always find my zone when I start jumping rope,” explains Mosbarger. “Once you hear the rhythm and get into your groove, you can get lost in that.”
She describes it as a form of active meditation that allows you to focus your entire attention on just keeping a steady rhythm—and nothing else. You can also play a mindfulness game with it, she adds, by closing your eyes, and taking 30 seconds to simply listen to the sound of your rope or other sounds and sensations in your surrounding environment.
Regularly jumping rope can improve your spatial awareness, says Ezekh. That’s because you constantly have to be aware of what’s in front, behind, and to the sides of you when you’re jumping rope—especially if you’re in a small space; otherwise, you could hit nearby objects with your rope. The improved spatial awareness you gain from jumping rope can “definitely make you a better athlete,” says Ezekh. “There’s a lot of scenarios where being aware of space and being able to be agile can be very beneficial.”
3. Is good, old-fashioned fun
Jumping rope, and the full-body coordination it requires, can be challenging at first. But with consistency, people tend to improve their skills quickly, says Mosbarger, and once that happens, “it can be a lot of fun,” says DiPaolo. Maybe it’ll make you feel like a carefree kid again. Perhaps you’ll find a lot of joy in learning new tricks. Or maybe you’ll fall in love with its meditative qualities. “I feel like everybody [who can] should try to jump rope and see how they like it,” says Ezekh, “because it might be something that they’ll really enjoy.”