Jump rope’s not just for the schoolyard. It’s also a legit (and increasingly trendy) way to work out. But is it worth swapping for your regular running routine?
Here are the deets on jumping rope vs. running for your weekly workout.
How many calories you’ll burn running versus jumping rope depends on your current fitness level, your size, and how much you exert yourself.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, here’s roughly how many calories you could burn in 30 mins at 3 different body weights:
Running may burn slightly more calories, but the two exercises are pretty comparable. Either one will give you a hardcore cardio workout, so you can’t go wrong!
So, which one’s better for your health — running or rope? That depends on your priorities. Here’s what to know.
The muscles they work
Both running and jumping rope will work your legs and core. If you’re looking to work your booty, though, running may do more for your glutes. Running requires you to use your hip extensors (aka your butt muscles) as you work through a greater range of motion.
Wanna get a bigger butt workout with your jump rope? You can try alternating single-foot jumping. This will work your hip abductors to stabilize your pelvis.
Ready for a serious arm workout? Jumping rope is your better option. It demands resistance to control the rope, so it works your shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearm flexor grip in the process.
Running doesn’t involve much resistance for your upper body, but it will contract your deltoids and flex your biceps a bit. If you want a greater arm workout while you run, try adding wrist or hand weights to your routine.
How they impact your bod
Neither of these workouts is particularly gentle on your body. But according to research from 2017 and 2020, the impact force of the two is pretty similar.
If your joints are ready, go for it! But if you have any concerns, you may want to reach out to a doctor or physical therapist for advice.
FYI: If you double-skip when jumping rope (aka double-unders — remember those?), the ground will exert even more force on your body.
Aerobic vs. anaerobic variations
Both running and jumping rope can be done as aerobic or anaerobic exercise. (Aerobic exercise generally boosts endurance, while anaerobic exercise increases muscle mass and strength.)
If you jump rope or run at a steady pace over a longer duration, you’re doing aerobic exercise. This type of exercise works large muscle groups, boosts your heart rate, and uses oxygen.
If you do sprints or jump rope at a high intensity interval, you’re doing anaerobic exercise. That’s intense bursts of physical activity fueled by energy sources within your muscles.
How they affect your body fat
In one small 2018 study, jumping rope for 12 weeks reduced body fat and improved heart disease risk factors in adolescent participants.
Another small study from 2020 found that jumping rope (along with dark chocolate supplements) reduced body fat in adolescent boys with obesity.
Of course, if you’re not a teenager anymore you might not get the same results. Those were the days, right?
Running is also a legit way to burn body fat. According to research from 2020, continuous endurance running and high intensity interval training are both effective ways to burn fat and calories.
Sprints and stamina shakedown
Both running and jumping rope (or jumping without a rope!) will boost your cardiovascular endurance. They may boost your sprint and stamina performance too.
According to a small 2020 study of the DigiJump machine, repetitive jumping is a strenuous and intensive cardio exercise. And a small 2015 study of elementary school students found that regularly performing double-under jumps helped improve sprint performance.
Further research could help us learn more, but it basically seems like you might not even have to run to get better at running. 🤔
Still unsure whether to pick up a jump rope or a new pair of running shoes? We gotchu. Here are some factors to consider.
Your bones and joints
Both jumping rope and running can be hard on your knees, hips, and ankles. Because they’re high impact activities, neither is the best choice if you have a lower leg injury (or delicate ankles).
For that reason, older folks or those with injuries may want to opt for lower-impact sports like swimming, cycling, or walking.
Looking to run or jump, but with less impact? Try these options:
- gravity-reducing treadmills
- aqua jogging (running in water)
- jumping rope on a trampoline
- a DigiJump machine (a machine that simulates jumping rope)
Your space and budget
Some people prefer jumping rope because they can do it in the comfort of their living room — no treadmill required. If running outside or at the gym doesn’t sound ideal, you can pick up a jump rope and still get a serious workout.
But if you like running outside, it’s a wonderful (and free!) way to get your heart rate pumping. And while you get fit, you can also reap the benefits of being outside in nature.
Ready to jump around? Even jumping rope for just 15 minutes can amp up your fitness. Here’s what to do.
Basic jump rope: 3 mins
You’ve got this one down. Start off with simple, classic jumping to warm up your body.
Keep your elbows at your waist, arms at a 90-degree angle, and shoulders over your hips. No need to jump like you’re on a pogo stick. Stay nice and low to the ground.
Jump rope in-and-outs: 4 mins
Now, add a jumping jack move with your legs as you jump. Squeeze your thighs and bring your legs in and out as you jump to get more leg muscles working.
Jump rope scissor jumps: 4 mins
Start by holding your jump rope with your hands in front of your bod. Jump into a stride position with one foot forward and one back. Jump and reverse your feet. Keep switching your feet (keep them about 10 inches apart).
Basic jump rope: 4 mins
To cool down, get back to the basics.
If you’re new to running, starting with just 15 mins can make an impact. Here’s how to get started.
Warmup: 3 mins
Do an easy run or light jog to get started. Think of this just as a time to get your muscles warmed up and blood pumping.
Amping up pace and intensity: 9 mins
This is what’s called a Fartlek run in running-speak. Basically, it’s 9 minutes of playing with pace and intensity based on your unique skill level, needs, and feeling.
Consider going fast for a few mins followed by a slower jog or slowly building up to a sprint. Over time, you’ll figure out what works best for you. Plus, when it comes to exercise, it’s always good to mix it up.
As your get stronger and faster and build endurance, you can add more time to this section of your run.
Cooldown: 3 mins
Cool down with a light jog. You earned it!
Both running and jumping rope will get your blood pumping, burn calories and fat, and improve your cardiovascular health. And who says you can’t fit both into your weekly routine?
They’re both cheap and efficient (no gym or fancy equipment required), but they’re also high impact. That means they’re not the best for those with injuries or sensitive knees.