Jump Rope vs Running – The Cold Hard Facts


If you’re interested in staying fit and healthy, working out is likely paramount to your wellness routine. Whether you’re into water aerobics or powerlifting, exercising regularly keeps your body and mind in optimal shape.

If you’re new to the world of exercise or if you’re trying to establish the best type of exercise for you, you’ve come to the right place. This article will examine the pros and cons of jump roping versus running – two popular forms of exercise that both have different benefits.

We make the case for jump roping due to its extensive benefits, ranging from its accessibility, low impact and capacity for cardiovascular exertion, amongst other great benefits that we will discuss.

So whether you’re a fitness junkie or a newbie, this article will teach you all you need to know about jump rope versus running.

Why is fitness important?

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. As a general guideline, adults should aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes per day to maintain their health.

Unfortunately, only one in three adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week. According to research conducted by the World Health Organization, these people are increasing their risk of premature aging, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and accelerated muscle degeneration.

Studies show that individuals who regularly exercise have a 35 percent decreased risk of developing heart disease or stroke, a 50 percent decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity, age slower, have less age-related illnesses like sarcopenia, and experience less mental health problems.

That’s not our opinion, that’s the cold hard science! So now we’ve reminded you why fitness is so important, let’s get into the benefits of certain types of exercise versus others.

What is jumping rope?

You’ve most likely heard and even tried jumping rope. It’s a popular form of exercise often used in circuit training, boxing and in warm ups. However, we believe it’s massively underrated.

Jumping rope is one of the best workouts you can do – we’ll get into the reasons why in a minute. But first, for those who are yet to try jump rope, here’s what it involves.

With a rope attached with handles, held in each hand, you swing the rope around your body and jump over it. You can increase the intensity by increasing the rate at which the rope is swung, alternating between feet or doing double jumps.

So now, what are the benefits?

Benefits of jumping rope

As with all forms of exercise, jumping rope is extremely beneficial for your cardiovascular system, which includes your heart and circulatory system.

When you start jump roping, your heart starts beating faster, increasing blood flow around your body and oxygen to your muscles. This helps to flush your system, removing bacteria and toxins from the lungs and airways, strengthening your heart and lung capacity.

This has a number of benefits for your health, starting with your immune system. As shown in a study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science in 2019, when we exercise, antibodies and white blood cells (WBCs) – our immune cells – circulate more vigorously and in higher concentrations, boosting immune function.

This is partially why exercise is such a profound method to protect against disease and illness.

Another benefit of jump roping is its ability to fight inflammation in the body. When you start jump roping and your heart rate increases, making you short of breath, you are actually placing your body under stress.

However, stress isn’t always bad.

In fact, brief periods of stress result in powerful anti-inflammatory responses which help to regulate inflammation throughout the body and heal post-workout.

Some of the mechanisms within this response system include: the release of muscle myokines that stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory molecules like interleukin-10 (human cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor), an increase in fatty acid metabolism and other lipid super-pathway metabolites and improved oxygenation.

You’ll probably notice when you jump rope, you quickly get fatigued. This is because it’s an intensive form of exercise. In fact, research has shown that jumping rope can help you burn over 1,000 calories per hour, which is more than weight lifting or running!

This is why jump rope is so commonly used in high intensity interval training (HIIT), because you’re working in a high heart rate zone, switching between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.

So when you start jump roping as fast as you can, your heart rate rapidly increases so that you would no longer be able to hold a conversation – this signals that you are working anaerobically.

During anaerobic metabolism, the body uses glucose for fuel and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced. You can only keep this up for 15 to 45 seconds usually, so when you jump rope for this time at maximum capacity followed by a short break, and then repeat for several rounds, you create an excessive post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

Without getting too much into the science – when EPOC is created, you elevate your metabolic rate which means you will be burning fat stores for 16 or more hours post workout.

The best part about jump rope HIIT is that it only takes 10 to 15 minutes, and according to research, is the most effective form of exercise for weight loss.

A study that examined the effects of a six minute HIIT session found that the participants burnt up to 112 calories. However, due to the elevated metabolic rate, they continued burning more calories over the next 24 hours, resulting in 457 calories burnt in total from one six minute workout. Talk about bang for your buck!

According to a study conducted on jump roping, researchers found that it improved balance and motor coordination in the group of participants. This is because you have to stay cognizant of coordinating your jumps with your unders so you don’t trip over the rope.

Motor coordination is a transferable skill and a key component of cognitive function. When you exercise, you increase blood flow to your brain which helps you to think more sharply. Plus, compounds and neurotransmitters are released like brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), dopamine and endorphins that give you a boost of good feelings, decrease your perception of pain and help you emotionally regulate.

Another important benefit of jump rope is its accessibility. You don’t need fancy equipment, a gym membership, a workout studio, an instructor or even any former fitness experience to be able to jump rope.

A jump rope is also cheap, easy to source, compact, light and most importantly – effective.

This means that if you’re going on vacation and want to stay fit, or if you’ve got a limited budget or perhaps you just don’t have the time to commit to long workouts or traveling to the gym – jump roping is for you.

Here is one of my favorite jump ropes (link to amazon). This is a great jump rope for both beginners and more experienced jumpers.

But ‘what about running’ you say? Another cheap, equipment free, accessible form of exercise, but is it as effective as jump roping? Let’s examine that.

Is jumping rope better than running?

If you’re a functional fitness fan or you’re balling on a budget, jump rope versus running is probably a debate you’ve had in your head. Should you spend 15 minutes jump roping or go for a run? Which one is more effective for weight loss? Which is safer?

Luckily, there are pros of both forms of exercise, and which one you should choose depends on your specific situation, but here’s what the research says – to help you make your decision.

A study published by the Society of Health and Physical Educators in 2013 compared jump rope to jogging as methods of improving cardiovascular efficiency. The study included 92 male participants who were randomly assigned to jump rope for 10 minutes per day for six weeks, or assigned to jog 30 minutes per day for six weeks.

This is known as a randomized controlled trial, which is considered the gold standard of research, meaning it’s the best method for establishing the truth.

The researchers found that the jump rope group significantly improved cardiovascular efficiency – just as much as jogging for 30 minutes per day. This is profound data, proving that just a 10 minute workout could bring about the same benefits as a 30 minute run; and if you’ve tried running for 30 minutes every day, you’ll quickly realize how burdensome it is.

For anyone who claims that running is a better workout for fat loss – you actually burn more calories during a jump rope session compared to running.

According to research, jumping rope at a moderate pace is equivalent to running an eight minute mile.

Like running, it’s a full body workout, meaning you’ll be working your upper body, lower body and contracting your core to fulfill the range of motion. All your muscles will be activated during jump rope, arguably more so than in running, in which your upper body often goes lax (unless you are sprinting).

On the topic of sprinting – unless you are sprinting, you are not going to be able to do a short, effective workout by jogging, as you are with jumping rope.

For example, if you jog for 10 minutes, you’re going to burn 80 calories (on average). If you jump rope for 10 minutes, you’re going to burn 124 calories (on average).

This caloric burn is already higher, and that’s before you factor in the effect of EPOC. You’ll burn 124 calories in the 10 minute workout, however you’ll continue burning calories at an elevated rate for 16 hours post-workout. So when you now go back and compare it to that 10 minute jog, the two are unmatched.

Arguably the most important benefit of jump roping instead of running is that it’s a low impact form of exercise. High impact exercise like running puts pressure and stress on your joints, which can increase your risk of injury, pain and inflammation. This is due to the force of repeated impact of your body hitting an external surface, which in running, is the ground.

While you can get away with this when you’re young, as you get older, it’s not a good idea.

While jumping rope still involves some impact, it is greatly minimized compared to running, especially if you implement techniques like distributing the weight evenly between both feet when you land, or practice side-to-side jump rope in which you barely jump.

One of the best parts about jumping rope is that you can use it for a high intensity low impact training (HILIT) workout. HILIT uses the intensity of HIIT training, but applies it to low impact exercises like jumping rope, meaning you still enjoy the same benefits of HIIT but without the negatives of high impact activity.

This is a great option if you’re:

  • New to exercise
  • Recovering from an injury
  • Pre or postnatal mothers
  • Experiencing obesity or another cardiovascular disease
  • Have a disease or condition that impacts your mobility
  • Over 40
  • Suffer with joint or inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis

A study published in the Journal of Biomechanics in 2017 examined jump roping compared with running in terms of its impact on the joints and subsequent injury risk. The researchers found that jumping rope had a significantly lower impact and thus led them to conclude that it is a superior form of exercise for the general population.

Jump rope vs walking

Walking is another low impact form of exercise, however when compared to jump rope, there is a clear winner.

When you walk, your heart rate is around 60 percent of your heart rate max, meaning that you can likely engage in conversation normally and you can continue it for long periods of time. Which is good because that’s what you’ll have to do if you want to see any real changes in your health from walking alone.

Unlike jumping rope, you can’t do a ten minute walking workout once a day in order to lose fat, boost your VO2 max, increase bone density or drastically improve your cardiovascular system.

While walking more throughout the day is beneficial for increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – the amount of calories you burn in non-exercise related activity, to elevate your basal metabolic rate – it’s not an effective form of exercise, if that’s the sole form of exercise adopted.

Including both jumping rope and walking into a workout is optimal for cardiovascular health.

Jumping rope has extensive benefits, ranging from improving your heart and lung capacity, to helping you lose fat, to boosting your cognitive function and coordination.

Compared to running, jumping rope results in more calories burnt and is lower impact, making it a safer option for the general population, particularly older or vulnerable groups. Nonetheless, running is still a good option if you don’t have a jump rope. Some exercise is better than none, but some exercise is superior to others!

In conclusion, if you’re not jumping rope yet – you need to start. Jump on it!

Emilina Lomas

Emilina is a clinically trained nutritionist turned health writer. She's worked with top health and wellness brands including the National Football League (NFL), Muscle & Strength and Bulletproof Labs, and manages written content for many professional athletes. (www.emilinalomas.com)

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