MEDICAL INSIGHTS: Inexpensive workout equipment | Features

Jennifer E. Engen

Not considering shoes or clothing, a jump rope is about the most inexpensive piece of exercise equipment there is.

Yes, you can find very expensive jump ropes of course, but in the old days… say dating back to the 1600s in New York City, a piece of clothesline was all that was needed and the price was affordable.

No one knows for sure when jumping rope first became popular or where it may have originated. There are reports of Egyptians using vines as a jump ropes and medieval paintings show European kids jumping rope.

For sure early Dutch settlers were the first to bring rope jumping to North America. Those kids would eventually jump rope on the sidewalks of what would later become New York City and have chants or songs that went along with their jumping.

The French and English kids did not understand what the Dutch were saying, but it was the English who coined the term “Double Dutch” when they saw two ropes being turned in opposite directions with the happy Hollanders jumping both ropes with élan.

In the U.S.A. jumping rope became very popular in the 1940s and 1950s, but soon TV became more popular and kids watched more TV and spent less time outside. An interest in physical fitness began in the early 1970s. In 1973 a New York police officer started programs with rope jumping as a way to interest kids in exercise and to keep them out of trouble. Double Dutch leagues were formed, and now single and Double Dutch leagues, as well as jumping competitions are popular.

Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee used jumping rope as a significant part their fitness routines. It has been stated that 10 minutes of jumping rope is equal to running for 30 minutes at a 5.7 mile per hour pace.

The benefits are significant. It has been estimated that you could burn 1,000 calories an hour by jumping rope. There are of course cardiovascular benefits and jumping boosts bone density. Also balance, agility and coordination are enhanced. A jump rope is portable, low tech and inexpensive.

Whereas television may have minimized interests in rope jumping, YouTube has now helped to popularize jumping again. Check out Buddy Lee, a long time ambassador of jumping, and also Molly Metz. Molly is a five time world champion and has been noted to have completed 1,400 double unders in 10 minutes. That means jumping with two turns of the rope going under foot on each jump.

Over the recent holidays our youngest family members were introduced to jumping rope. Two adults turned the rope while a neophyte leaned the skill. Competition soon arose and the chants and some of the cadences of old reappeared.

Do you remember this one? Cindarella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take? One , two three, four… and in Wade’s case it took 105.

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