Double Dutch Your Way Toward a Healthier Life

There's a way to relive part of your childhood. Not for just fun... but for your health, too.

I (Jeff Havenstein) am not talking about playing kick the can at dusk or being forced to eat your peas at dinner time. I'm talking about jumping rope.

I imagine most folks near or in their retirement hear "jumping rope" and think it's not for them or even possible. They worry that it's too high impact and probably too difficult.

But after reading today's Health & Wealth Bulletin, you'll learn that's not the case. Our goal with today's essay is to convince you to give it a try...

If we're successful, it should improve your health in a big way.

First, a little background on me...

I've played basketball my whole life. Since middle school, a dream of mine was to play Division 1 college ball. I grew up watching Atlantic Coast Conference ("ACC") basketball and all of the heated battles between longtime rivals Duke and North Carolina (where Doc went to medical school). Even though I grew up in Maryland – and please, no one hold this against me – I loved rooting for the Duke basketball teams in the late '90s and early 2000's.

With my own basketball career, I always knew that I'd have to get more athletic if I wanted to take the next step. Specifically, I'd have to jump higher to compete with the guys slamming their heads on the rim.

So in high school, I obsessed about trying to jump higher. I tried everything... ankle weights, box jumps, calf raises, squats, even expensive training equipment like VertiMax, which is a small platform where you jump while attached to cords similar to bungees.

But what I ultimately found that worked best for me was jumping rope. I always felt like it made me get off the floor quicker. Plus, it was great for my conditioning.

After high school, I ultimately didn't make it to the ACC. But I still played Division 1 college basketball at a small school in Virginia. (And we did play a few ACC teams like Virginia and Virginia Tech during my four years there.)

All throughout my college career, my coaches frequently made us jump rope before practice as a warm-up. And the strength and conditioning staff made us jump rope as part of our offseason interval workouts.

My basketball days are behind me, though I still play in a few adult leagues here and there. But to this day, I continue to jump rope. While I'm not trying to have a 48" vertical like Michael Jordan anymore (trust me, it's tougher than you think), I continue to jump rope because it's great for my health.

In the years I've worked for Doc Eifrig, he has pushed me to question a lot of things and to find out the answers on my own through research. I can't just come to Doc with a stock idea and tell him I like the company because it's got great growth. He makes me dig deeper. He wants me to dive into the company's balance sheet... study the company's competitors... and find out if it can sustain growth for years to come.

Although my background is in economics and I mostly work on the financial side of Doc's business, Doc has been rubbing off on me... And I've recently started to take more of an interest in health and wellness.

I used to jump rope because I had a feeling it was good for me. Now I know the benefits and science because of my research.

The truth is, the simple act of jumping rope can do a lot for your overall health, and is more efficient than many exercises like jogging, for example.

First, jumping rope burns a lot of calories. Jumping burns 200 to 300 calories in 15 minutes . It burns more calories in a shorter amount of time than exercises like swimming, biking, and running. You'd have to run about 30 minutes to burn the same number of calories that jumping burns in half the time. Trust me, in no time at all, you'll work up a sweat.

If you're looking to burn calories and shed some weight, jumping rope is for you.

Second, it improves overall body strength. You would think that jumping rope only helps your lower legs muscles. But it's also a workout for your shoulders, back, and arms. It's also great for your hand-eye coordination. Your feet must work with your wrists and the rest of your body in order to create the continuous jumping motion.

Third, because it's a weight bearing exercise, it improves bone density.

In an American Journal of Health Promotion study, premenopausal women who jumped rope at least 10 times twice per day increased their hip bone density after just four months. And if you did 20 jumps twice per day, you saw even greater improvements in your bone density. Those who avoided jumps actually lost hip bone density over the duration of the study .

Finally, it improves heart health. Jumping rope increases your VO2 max – a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. With a higher VO2 max, the more cardiovascular endurance you have.

Now, let's address some of the concerns of jumping rope like I mentioned earlier...

"It's too high impact for me."

This is a common misconception. When done correctly, jumping rope is actually a low impact exercise.

If you use proper form, you will land gently on the balls of your feet. That helps cushion your landing. And that means there is minimal strain on your joints, much less than running... all while burning more calories. (Doc wanted me to talk about Newton's second law where force equals mass times acceleration... but jumping really is easier on the joints than running.)

"I'm too old for that and can't do it"

Yes... jumping rope is often pictured as an exercise for young, six-packed Cross-Fitters and boxers. But almost anyone can do it. And if you think jumping rope will be too difficult for you, there are still ways to get the benefits.

It turns out you can simply mimic jumping rope but without the rope. Stand with your feet close together and make small jumps while moving your arms in the same motion as if you were holding the jump rope. It seems silly to do that with no rope, but moving your arms and hands helps to work out your upper body and helps with your coordination.

If starting this way is too hard, you could always start jumping in a pool, until you were strong enough to do it on land. Exercising in water is great for you because the water provides resistance and support for your movements. Again, remember to get your arms moving each time you jump as well.

If you do have weak bones, it's probably best to talk to your doctor before getting into a jump rope exercise routine. But according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, jumping rope is beneficial for people with weak bones.

Finally, jumping rope has another benefit... It helps your bank account.

No expensive gym membership required. A good jump rope, and I would recommend getting one you can easily grip, will cost you less than $20 on Amazon.

You can jump rope pretty much anywhere, and you'll only need to do it a few minutes a day. Of course, be sensible and start off slow and in short bursts. Even jumping rope for 30  seconds or so as a warm-up to other exercises can have great health benefits.

If you can incorporate jumping rope into your weekly routine, you'll quickly find you can live a healthier life.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Jeff Havenstein and Dr. David Eifrig
November 3, 2020