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Zoom physical education is not the same, and seeing our kids apathetically jog in place in front of the computer can be disheartening. According to the CDC, children between the ages of 6 to 17 should be exercising for 60 minutes per day, and we’re lucky if they get half of that. I see this especially with my middle-schooler who deems himself too old to play on the playground, yet sports are cancelled and he doesn’t even have to get up to get to school or change classes. The temptation during a break is to lounge on the sofa with a phone or tablet. This sedentary behavior can negatively impact our children’s physical and mental health, which may be a factor in why depression in adolescents may be on the rise.
The science shows the importance of moving, with active physical exercise tied to mental health. It’s difficult for parents who are juggling careers, childcare, school and meals to then get the kids to exercise more. One fun and inexpensive solution for our family has been jumping roping. For $10 or less, you can get a simple jump rope, and it’s all you need. Sometimes we even do a hundred jumps without the actual rope to get the blood pumping before we sit for the next Zoom meet, or meal.
Jumping is fun for our kids, and something they can do together (vs. running/biking where 3 different ages make for very different speeds) and they don’t realize that they are exercising and getting their heart rates up. Jumping rope is very effective since all of the major muscle groups are moving at the same time. According to WebMD, you can burn some serious calories, and you’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you’d burn jumping rope. “It’s certainly good for the heart,” says Peter Schulman, MD, associate professor, Cardiology/Pulmonary Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. “It strengthens the upper and lower body and burns a lot of calories in a short time.”
Building Bone Density
2015 research published from Brigham Young University shows one exercise offers greater benefit to bone density than to others and that is jumping. Additionally, a 2017 study published in the Public Library of Science found that girls aged 11 to 14 who participated in weekly jump roping had higher bone density than those who did not jump rope. Jumping rope stresses the bones in the lower extremities with impact and the body responds by making those bones stronger and denser. Running does help with increases in BMD (bone mass density) but not at the same effective rate as jumping. And by contrast, elite cyclists have been shown to be more susceptible to bone loss perhaps due to the lack of impact in combination with calcium loss when sweating profusely. Considering both men and women begin losing bone density in their 40’s, it makes sense to encourage our kids (and ourselves!) to build up our BMD while we still can.
Jumping rope increases coordination because it requires the brain to communicate the different muscle groups to work together just to complete one movement. The arms have to swing the rope, and then then we must get the timing and rhythm to jump over the rope at precisely the right moment to successfully complete one movement. We then have to link all of those movements together. A 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that 8 weeks of jumping rope enhanced balance and general motor coordination in pre-adolescent soccer players.
Have a Contest
For our kids, who are still growing, we’re trying to get everyone to do 500 jump ropes in a day (100 at a time). It’s a low-cost fun way to get the heart beating, all the muscles moving and the kids laughing. Sometimes my kids compete with each other, other times they work on their personal bests, and still other days, we just turn on the music and jump. We have a prize in our family for the most creative way to do 500 jump ropes. The winner gets to do 100 jumping jacks! Look at #jumprope on TikTok. It’s amazing what some kids are doing with a simple rope.