It may be old fashioned but the art of skipping rope is being heralded as one of the best exercises for keeping a spring in our step for longer. Skipping works wonders for your heart, bones, coordination, balance, and brain, and a recent study by a University in Japan has found it can also suppress your appetite. Researchers discovered that the level of hunger hormones, such as ghrelin, was lower in a group who did three 10-minute bursts of skipping, while a group that cycled for the same time didn’t experience the same drop in appetite.
The movement puts repeated stress on bones, which can reduce the rate of bone loss. “Bone responds and grows due to a change in force. With skipping, you constantly impact the ground and that provides stimulus for the bone to grow,” Newton says. “When you walk, the impact on bones is low so it doesn’t really stimulate growth.”
When you use both your upper and lower body, you use more oxygen, improve your body’s ability to use oxygen and enjoy a harder workout. This makes your heart work harder and builds its strength, while also reducing blood pressure. “Activities like skipping, cross-country skiing and rowing activate most muscles in the body and you get a good cardiovascular effect,” Newton says. “Interval training is particularly effective, so skip faster for a minute, then walk for a minute, skip for a minute, walk for a minute, and do that for about 20 minutes.”
Coordination and balance
In skipping your body constantly adjusts with each step. “Your mind has to control all body movements and control the rope and timing as you jump – this all improves balance,” Newton says. It also strengthens the lower back and hip muscles, abdominals, front thighs, hamstrings, and buttocks, which all help to improve balance.
Skipping uses more energy than walking, jogging or cycling because you lift your body off the ground with each skip, and that burns more kilojoules. “When you have to move your whole body, it starts to shed weight to adapt,” Newton says.
The left and right side of the brain have to work together to figure out rhythm, timing, and space as you skip. And the regular slap of the rope on the ground can be meditative. An increased heart rate also pumps more blood and nutrients to the brain, which improves alertness and focus.