Health Matters: A successful workout; Jumping rope

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As a physical therapist, I often make recommendations regarding exercise. I find people have the greatest long term success with a new exercise routine when it is well suited to their abilities, when it fits in with their lifestyle, and when they see the positive results of the exercise quickly. That's why I often recommend jumping rope.

Jumping rope is strenuous and not appropriate for everyone. So, the first thing to do is make sure you are ready to give jumping rope a try.

• Always check with your health care provider before attempting a new exercise routine. Your provider may share concerns about your heart health or past injuries. He or she may make other recommendations for exercise or may recommend that you try a less strenuous exercise before jumping rope.

• Even if your health care provider gives you the go-ahead, remember that jumping rope is rigorous. If you find it too difficult, start with a routine of brisk walking or riding a stationary bike to get yourself into shape for jumping rope. No matter what exercise you are doing, aim to increase your movement only until your breathing makes it slightly difficult to carry on a normal conversation.

• If you have ever had an injury to your knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, or wrists, be especially aware, and stop jumping if you experience any pain. This could be a signal that you are injuring yourself.

• All jump ropers should wear a sturdy, well-fitted pair of athletic shoes to ensure adequate foot support and jump on a smooth, even surface.

The ultimate success of a new type of exercise often relates to how well it fits in with your lifestyle. Jump roping requires a very small initial investment in equipment. A high-quality jump rope can be purchased for as little as $6. Even the most expensive jump ropes are only around $30. You can even find instructions online for making your own jump rope out of recycled materials.

Jumping rope fits into almost any schedule. A jump rope is highly portable, which means there is very little excuse to miss a workout, even when you are away from home. And a little jump roping goes a long way. Because it is so rigorous, even those who have little time for working out can get excellent benefits from jumping rope.

If you have found that you are ready to give jumping rope a try, let's talk about the types of results you are likely to notice. Jumping rope is a full-body aerobic and strength-building work out. It incorporates many muscle groups and requires deep concentration. It is also a plyometric exercise, which means that the muscles exert maximum force in short intervals.

All of these factors relate to better than average results for most people. Some commonly reported results include increases in speed, strength, conditioning, coordination, agility, and endurance. Some even claim that jumping rope is good for your brain. Being able to see the positive results related to a new type of exercise helps many people stick with it.

Maybe the most important thing about jumping rope is that it is fun. The concentration necessary to jump rope means that it is far more engaging than, say, running on a treadmill. Plus, you can set challenges for yourself and incorporate tricks to increase the difficulty.

Whether you choose jump roping or some other form of exercise, remember that your long term success will likely relate to preparation, compatibility with your lifestyle, and whether you notice results.

— Mark Epler, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist at SVMC Outpatient Rehabilitation. Look for the Southwestern Vermont Health Care tent at Bennington's Mayfest 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 28. Volunteers from SVHC will be conducting a 1-minute jump rope challenge, and participants will get to take their jump rope home with them. "Health Matters" is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.


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