Jump rope can be just as effective as running, but only with the right skills.
Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images
When it comes to working out, finding the right aerobic exercise for you depends on your personal fitness goals. Running and jump rope burn calories, improve endurance and have loads of comparable health benefits that come along with aerobic exercise. Jump rope may have more ancillary benefits than running, but it also has a steep learning curve, so you've got to know what you're doing to get the most out of a rope routine.
The number of calories you'll burn running or with a jump rope depends on your work rate and body weight, but they are similar. A 155-pound person will burn about 596 calories running at 5 miles per hour for one hour, according to Harvard Health Publications. The same person will burn 744 calories in an hour of jumping rope.
In addition to burning calories, aerobic exercises such as running and jump rope will increase your stamina, reduce health risks and manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Both running and jump rope can be anaerobic exercises if you increase your pace. Pushing your heart rate to 80 or 90 percent of its maximum through speed rope or sprinting will put you in the anaerobic zone, causing you to burn more calories without losing muscle mass.
Running and jump rope don't seem like high-impact exercises, but damage due to repeated impacts can add up over time. Both forms of exercise put stress on your feet, ankles, knees and hips. While jump rope has some advantages over running, it also has a much steeper learning curve and it's unlikely that a beginner can keep up a steady pace long enough to get the same health benefits as running. Varying your jumping patterns takes skill and practice.
The Superior Exercise
Jump rope has a few distinct advantages over running in that it involves upper-body muscles more, increasing strength in your arms, shoulders and back. Boxers and mixed martial arts fighters use jump rope to improve coordination, footwork and agility -- benefits you're unlikely to get from running. But it's hard to beat the simplicity and versatility of running, since you can do it virtually anywhere and at any level of intensity.
Fitting Both Into Your Workout Plan
Neither jump rope nor running should make up the entirety of your workout plan, but you can incorporate them into different workouts to get your heart pumping. Spice up a circuit training workout by adding 1-minute jump rope intervals between each exercise, or head to your local track and alternate 100m sprints with intervals of walking or bodyweight exercises, like walking lunges or push ups.