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Preventive Maintenance: Skipping is a great source of exercise

Thinking about the upcoming cold weather, and how you're going to keep in shape over the winter?...

Thinking about the upcoming cold weather, and how you’re going to keep in shape over the winter?

Well, bouncing up and down in your seat as you navigate the highway’s potholes might increase your heart rate and even tire you out, but it doesn’t count as exercise.

Are you looking for a portable, convenient way to stretch your muscles, and burn off a few extra calories? What about jumping rope?

It’s cheap and portable, and burns more calories than you’d guess.

Just 30 minutes of skipping will burn up about 340 calories, which means you could completely burn off your last McDonald’s BBQ McChicken Sandwich. Of course, skipping faster burns more calories. As well, the heavier you are, the more calories you burn. A Reebok study found that skipping burns more calories than jogging or playing football.

Some say that if you skip for 10 minutes, you get the same health benefits as if you’d run hard for 45-minutes. This makes skipping ideal for truckers, since you don’t get a lot of extra time to exercise!

Even though skipping is not considered an aerobic exercise, it does use up a lot of energy. It also helps increase your fitness level, improving the way your body uses energy, so when you do other exercises, your body burns fat more effectively.

Like other exercises, skipping improves your heart rate, decreasing your cholesterol and blood pressure. It also reduces the risk of non-insulin dependant diabetes, colon cancer, depression and anxiety.

Not to mention that skipping makes you look better by firming up your hips, thighs and butt.

If you’re really overweight and want to start skipping, start out slowly. Otherwise, you may strain something.

Why skip rope? For one, it’s easy to learn. Just look around any schoolyard; even little kids can do it. Second, it’s cheap.

A skipping rope doesn’t cost much. You can get a cheap plastic rope for a dollar. In a sports shop, you can get a good rope, with weighted hand grips for under $25.

Third, the impact strengthens your bones. Fourth, ongoing skipping over a period of time will increase your strength, endurance, co-ordination and agility.

Skipping is even one of the foundational exercises for a boxer getting into condition.

To get into shape, you could try out this boxer’s conditioning routine:

* Skip for three minutes;

* Do as many crunches as you can for one minute;

* Skip for another three minutes;

* Do as many push-ups as you can for one minute;

* Skip for three minutes;

* Start again and repeat for 30 minutes.

You can substitute squats and lunges if you want to focus on strengthening your legs. But, since your calves are going to get a good work-out while skipping, be sure to stretch them before and after exercising.

Is skipping rope for everyone? No. Because it’s a high-impact activity, don’t skip if you have joint problems, established osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis or advanced osteoarthritis.

As well, if you already have heart disease, a family history of heart disease or any known health problems, talk to your doctor before starting this, or any new exercise program.

If you’re looking for excitement, skipping may not be for you.

It’s pretty repetitive although, you can spice it up by varying your routine. Try some variations, once you’ve got the hang of it. You could hop from one foot to the other (or try hopping two times on one foot, then two times on the other) or jog while skipping.

Conveniently, this exercise doesn’t take a lot of equipment. First you’ll need a rope that’s right for your height. To check the length, stand on the middle of the rope and pull the handles up until the rope is taut. The handles should be in the middle of your chest. If they’re higher than that, shorten the rope. Most modern exercise ropes come with shortening instructions.

If you’re just starting out, get a beaded rope because it holds its shape better and is easier to use.

Besides the rope, you’ll need supportive cross-trainers, tennis or basketball shoes, because running shoes won’t give enough forefoot support for all the bouncing you’ll do. Try to avoid jumping on concrete, floors laid over concrete, and other hard surfaces like tile. But, if you don’t have a springy wooden or carpeted floor, place a thin exercise mat on the floor and jump on that.

While you skip, watch your posture. Bend your knees and ankles and keep your torso straight when jumping. Keep your arms by your sides turning the rope from the wrists and forearms. Most importantly, do it! No matter how you look at it, skipping is a great way to stay in shape while on the road. This winter, jump at the chance.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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