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Jump For Life!

How can we get South Africa’s youth fit and healthy? Regular exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle, so it’s important to encourage the next generation to seek out and cultivate healthy habits they can carry with them into the future. It has to be effective, sustainable, convenient, challenging and fun in order for the exercise to become a habit. And we’ve got the perfect solution: jump rope!

Jump rope is for everyone. The idea of jumping rope conjures up two distinct imagines that should illustrate the spectrum here: a little European girl with pigtails skipping with a thick rope (probably in a horror film) and the frantic workouts of legendary fighters like Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali. From a historical perspective, the act of jumping rope may go further back than 17th CE Europe; there may be some evidence that the Chinese and Egyptians were jumping rope hundreds of years before the Dutch popularised it (heard of “Double Dutch“?). Those are some images that come to mind when thinking about jumping rope and a quick glance at the history, but what does jumping rope look like today?

Below are two examples of how awesome (and intense—Americans love competition) jump rope can be. The first is the final battle from the 2007 film Jump In! and the second is the trailer to the American documentary Jump! from the same year…

“Jump In!” (2007)

“Jump!” (2007)

Starting to warm up to the idea of jumping rope? The above clips show that jumping rope can be incredibly fun and challenging, but how good an exercise is it really? A 2017 TIME article by Markham Heid said that jumping rope is a “shockingly good workout”. Here are some of the reasons you should consider jumping rope:

  1. It gets your heart pumping and improves cardiovascular health.
  2. It improves balance and motor coordination.
  3. The intensity can be adjusted (e.g. heavier ropes for strength, lighter ones for speed).
  4. It’s a great cardio workout or warm-up exercise.
  5. Helps improve posture.
  6. Can help sculpt the upper body.
  7. It’s a total-body workout that burns (far) more calories than running/jogging per minute.
  8. It has been shown to improve bone density (which is really important as we age).
  9. The risk of injury is lower than other forms of impact cardio (e.g. running).
  10. It’s portable, fun, and there’s plenty of room for improvisation.
  11. Jump rope can also help improve your cognitive functioning and help you stay calm.
  12. It doesn’t take a lot of time (just 5 to 15 minutes a day) or money (a basic jump rope is relatively cheap, and you can even make one yourself).

Those are some excellent reasons to #JumpForLife! To nail home the point, here are five articles about the benefits of jumping rope, but be sure to follow-up and do your own research too:

Okay, so jump rope is a fun exercise that doesn’t take a lot of your time and has lots of great benefits. But how will you know if you’re doing it correctly? Another great thing about jumping rope is that the movement itself is really simple, and it’s ‘self-correcting’ (it’s hard to skip for too long with the incorrect technique). After you’ve got the right rope (more on that below), here are the basic nuts and bolts of the action from a WikiHow article to help you get jumping correctly…

— Hold the rope with your hands at hip height and keep your elbows slightly bent. Make sure your upper arms are close to your sides. Roll your shoulders back and down and keep your chest out.

—Jump one to two inches off the floor, giving the rope just enough space to slip under your feet. Land on the balls of your feet.

— Keep your elbows close to your sides as you turn the rope. The movement should come from your wrists and forearms, not from your shoulders. Make turns that are no bigger than two inches, as any bigger will cause you to jump too high.

— Make your jumps small and consistent. Do 10-15 jumps to warm up and get the feel for the basic jump.

— If you get tired before you finish 15 jumps, drop the rope but keep your arms and legs going. You can work up to using the rope full-time.

That’s it! It’s important to focus on mastering the basic technique (and your breathing) in the beginning before moving on to more advanced moves—that’s when things really start to get exhilarating. The two videos above showcased just how fun and challenging (and cinematic) jump rope can be, but here is a more structured guide to some of the moves you will be able to do if you accept the challenge and practice, practice, practice…

16 Jump Rope Tricks From Beginner to Advanced

Okay, so you really want to put on your favourite track and get jumping, but you don’t have a rope! First, a decent jump rope isn’t very expensive; you should be able to find one for around R40+ (Price Check). Second, you can actually make one yourself! Yes, that’s right, you can make your own rope using some basic materials, including plastic bags! Here are links to websites that take you through the whole DIY process:

So no excuses—get yourself a rope, find a space to swing it, put on your favourite track, and let’s #JumpForLife!

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