As one of the most debated topics in all of fitness, it’s perhaps no surprise that “jump rope vs. running” is also one of the top FAQs that we (Dan and Brandon) receive from the JRD community.
As low cost, efficient, and adaptable forms of exercise, jumping rope and running are great options if you’re looking to get sweaty and boost your heart rate. And yet, there are essential differences between the two worth noting.
Yes, we (Dan and Brandon) have our reasons for favoring the jump rope.
However, our goal isn’t to sell you on what’s right for us. We recognize that everyone’s fitness journey is different. We aren’t here today to reach a definitive conclusion on the debate. On the contrary, the purpose of this article (as with all of our in-depth blog posts) is to help you make informed decisions concerning your physical fitness. In this blog post, we will review the benefits of both forms of exercise and how they compare head-to-head with respect to cardiovascular health, fat loss, risk of injury, and more.
Before we get started, we want to remind our readers to check out our jump rope community platform, JRD TV. Designed to help you streamline the jump rope experience, JRD TV offers you a massive catalog of workouts, a coaching forum, an amazing community for accountability, live workouts, and more. If you’re not ready yet for JRD TV and simply want to test the jump rope waters, we suggest signing up for our new 7-day jump rope challenge.
Ok – let’s dive into today’s topic.
Top Benefits of Jumping Rope
We have extensively covered the many benefits of jumping rope on both our blog and the JRD YouTube Channel. Today, in the spirit of concision, we will only look at what we believe to be the top three benefits of jumping rope compared to running. If you want to learn more about all of the benefits of jumping rope, we encourage you to check out the video embedded above, as well as our comprehensive post on the topic: The Top 10 Benefits of Jumping Rope (Mental and Physical).
1. Jumping Rope Improves Cardiovascular Health
Jump roping is a no-brainer if you want to improve your overall heart health, including reducing your resting heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. As a true full-body workout, jumping rope allows you to raise your heart rate two to three times faster than most forms of exercise. This results in a much more effective workout in less time than other forms of cardiovascular training – including jogging (more on this later on in the article).
Now, it’s important to note that this position is not only based on our own personal experience jumping rope, but it is also backed up by a mountain of scientific literature.
One such study was recently conducted in India for the Research Journal of Pharmacy and Technology. The study divided a number of college-age males (18-25) into a jump rope group and a control group. While the jump rope group was directed to jump rope two sessions per day over a 12 week period, the control group was encouraged to continue with their regular fitness routines.
Cardiovascular endurance was then measured for both groups and recorded via each participant’s VO2 max (aka the amount of oxygen used during exercise). On comparing the pre and post-test values within the experimental group, researchers found a significant statistical improvement of VO2 max. In contrast, the control group showed no difference or improvement in pre and post-test values.
In plain English? Jump rope group participants increased the amount of oxygen their bodies could absorb while working out by simply jumping rope!
2. Jumping Rope Scorches Belly Fat
One of the main lessons we have learned throughout the last ten years dedicating our lives to jumping rope is that the exercise absolutely incinerates belly fat.
We know this because we both used the jump rope to radically transform our bodies. Dan lost roughly 70 pounds of fat, while Brandon, following the same blueprint, lost around 65 pounds. These results, while impressive, are nothing compared to the transformations we have seen time and again in our amazing JRD community. We invite you to check our transformations video playlist and see what 80, 90, and 100 plus pound transformations look like.
The secret to burning abdominal fat with the jump rope? HIIT workouts.
Also known as High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT is an exercise protocol that calls for periods of explosive anaerobic exercises followed by brief periods of recovery or low-intensity exercise. Research shows that this type of exercise not only burns more fat than steady-state cardio training (up to 9x more!), but it is more efficient. We encourage you to check out the studies that we linked – the results will amaze you.
While there are a number of exercise tools that you can incorporate into your HIIT workouts (kettlebells, bars, bands, etc.), we believe that the jump rope puts you in the best position to transition quickly from one intensity level to the next without ever stopping the movement of your body. For example, you can easily move from 30 seconds of heart-pounding “double-unders” to a ten second rest period of “regular bounce.” Or from one minute of high-intensity “sprinting in place” to 30 seconds of low-intensity “feet front to back.”
With so many exercise variations available, the jump rope empowers you to design a truly effective, engaging, and fat-scorching exercise experience.
3. Jumping Rope is a Full-Body Workout
Ok, so we know that jumping rope can improve heart health and burn some serious calories. But, there is a third major benefit that deserves our attention – one that is often overlooked by fitness gurus, especially when comparing jumping rope to running.
Jumping rope is a true full-body workout.
A brief glance at any of our YouTube videos would likely have you thinking that jumping rope only really activates your leg muscles, right? Wrong! Jumping rope activates your entire body, from your lower body to your upper body and core.
While the calves and glutes are key players in achieving an effective jump rope workout (used to stabilize the lower body and core), there are additional major muscle groups that are also working double-time as you skip. Muscles within the hands and forearms (for grip) and in the back and shoulders are also being utilized and activated while you jump. In addition, your core never turns off while you’re jumping, as the exercise requires you to keep your torso engaged as you transition from movement to movement.
In total, we have identified seven major muscle groups that the jump rope activates as you workout. You can learn more about each of these muscle groups (including the impact you can expect on each) in our recent blog post, What Muscles Does Jump Rope Work?
Remember, the recipe for achieving a true full-body workout when jumping rope requires two key ingredients that we will explore in more detail below: proper technique and a weighted jump rope.
We have written and spoken at length about the importance of mastering the jump rope fundamentals. From hand grip to posture to proper jump height, there are a number of basic “do’s” and “don’ts” that all aspiring jump rope ninjas will need to learn. Basic technique will help you prevent common jump rope injuries and lay the foundation for more advanced techniques and HIIT workouts. If you want to learn more about the jump rope fundamentals, check out our post on the topic, How to Jump Rope: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.
Weighted Jump Ropes
The second ingredient for an effective full-body jump rope workout is a weighted jump rope.
This is another topic that we have previously discussed in detail. Essentially, a weighted rope not only makes it easier to learn the jump rope fundamentals (slowing down your rotations for better rope feedback), but it also adds additional resistance to your rope swings, activating more muscle groups and burning more calories.
While the former comes with lighter 1/4 LB and 1/2 LB ropes that are great for beginners and those new to HIIT, the latter comes with 1 LB and 2 LB ropes that help drive muscular endurance. Both options allow you to try the ropes for two months, and if you aren’t happy with the ropes (and we are sure that you will be!), you’re able to return them for a full refund. To learn more about the many amazing benefits of heavy ropes, check out our video tutorial on the topic.
Top Benefits of Running
If you’re like most people, when it comes to running, you are likely to have a strong opinion about it one way or the other – you either love it or you hate it.
If you happen to fall into the category of individuals who wouldn’t be caught dead crushing some miles, we have news: running has many amazing benefits! What follows below are the top benefits of running that we have identified through our research. Remember, this list is not exhaustive! Take these benefits as data points to help you decide which type of exercise is right for you.
1. Running Increases Lung Capacity
When we talk about lung capacity, we’re essentially referring to how much oxygen can be utilized by the body at any given time. This is important when it comes to working out, as intense training requires more oxygen in the bloodstream and, in turn, the efficient removal of CO2.
Running works to increase the capacity of your respiratory muscles (including your diaphragm) and boosts capillary production, allowing for deeper breaths and the delivery of more oxygen to your muscles. Interval and high-altitude running are especially effective at building lung capacity.
2. Running Improves the Quality of Your Sleep
Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery, immune system health, and, generally, a high quality of life. Most forms of exercise are correlated to improving the quality of one’s sleep. However, several studies have come out in the last decade that show that running might be your best option if you want to improve your shut-eye.
One study in particular from The Journal of Adolescent Health found that running as little as 30 minutes a day has the potential to radically improve the quality of your sleep. According to researchers, the running group in the study, when compared with the control group, experienced improvements in subjective sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day, as well as a dramatic decrease in sleepiness.
3. Running Doesn’t Require Specialized Equipment
Other than a good pair of shoes – something we don’t consider “specialized” – running requires minimal equipment to get started. In addition, you don’t need a gym, there isn’t a steep learning curve, and the sport doesn’t really require expertise to get a good workout in. Weather permitting, it’s easy to throw on a pair of running shoes and hit the road. This is especially great for individuals who are constantly on the go or traveling for work.
Jump Rope vs. Running
Now that we are familiar with some of the top benefits of both jumping rope and running, it’s time to compare them side-by-side.
We understand that some people will always be “runners” and others will always be “jumpers” (we fall into the latter category). Again, the goal here isn’t to get you to drink the JRD kool-aid, it’s to help you make informed decisions with respect to your fitness journey. If, at the end of the day, you still prefer a 5k over 30 minutes on the rope (or vice-versa), that’s ok! All that matters is that you are DOING THE THING.
With that being said, let’s see how our two contenders stack up.
Which Burns More Calories?
While both jumping rope and running with the right level of intensity will leave you huffing and puffing, jumping rope has a significant advantage when it comes to burning calories. This conclusion is based mainly on our own personal experiences with the jump rope.
Over the years, we (Dan and Brandon) have conducted a number of experiments that have shown us first-hand the calorie-burning prowess of jumping rope. In one experiment (see the video embedded above), Dan proved that in an hour and twenty minutes of moderate-intensity jump rope training, it is possible to burn over 1,000 calories. In another experiment, he showed us that, again with moderate-intensity, it is possible to burn 800 calories in just under an hour of jumping rope.
Alternatively, our experience running at a comparable intensity for similar periods of time only resulted in a calorie burn of 350-500 calories.
Concerning the opinion of the experts, there are a lot of studies showing that jumping rope offers more health benefits in less time than running. However, when it comes to actual calories burned, there are simply too many variables (age, fitness level, exercise intensity, etc.) to reach a concrete opinion. Harvard Health Publishing – a consumer health education division of Harvard Medical School – has put together a comprehensive chart comparing jump rope vs. running. This chart shows how many calories it is possible to burn in 30 minutes for a range of different body weights:
Now, while the data shows that running at a pace of eight minutes a mile will burn slightly more calories than jumping rope at a fast speed, it’s important to remember one crucial fact – eight minutes a mile is freaking fast! Most people average around ten minutes per mile or above.
In our opinion, it’s much easier for a fitness novice to quickly reach a point where they can jump rope at a high-intensity level over 30 minutes multiple times a week (and without injury) than it is for the same novice to run three miles, at eight minutes a mile, multiple times a week.
For more studies comparing the fat/calorie-burning benefits of jumping rope to running, check back to the subsection in this blog titled “Jumping Rope Scorches Belly Fat.” The research we linked in that section further dives into the topic and explains how jumping rope is more effective at burning fat (aka calories) than steady-state cardio. In the end, your personal experience is what really matters. Therefore, we recommend you get yourself a fitness tracker, test both types of exercise, and measure your results.
Which Is Better for Cardiovascular Health?
While the scientific data on jumping rope and total calorie burn may be inconclusive, the literature concerning cardiovascular health is not: jumping rope provides more cardiovascular benefits in less time than running.
The seminal study in this area was conducted by John A. Baker at Arizona State University. In the study, 92 male students were divided into two groups. While one group skipped rope for ten minutes a day, the other jogged for 30 minutes a day. After six weeks, each group underwent a series of tests to measure the cardiovascular impact of each type of exercise.
The study concluded that ten minutes of jumping rope was as efficient as 30 minutes a day of jogging.
In other words, the jump rope group received the same improvements in cardiovascular efficiency as the running group, but in one-third of the time! No need to log a ton of miles and smash your joints in the process – all you need to do is pick up a jump rope, and in just ten minutes a day you can get started on the road to a stronger and healthier heart.
Which Is Better for Strength Training?
While neither jumping rope nor running is considered a strength training exercise, jumping rope helps build muscular endurance – especially if you use weighted jump ropes.
As Brandon discusses in the video above, we have seen, over time, an increase in our muscle mass from jumping rope. However, having said that, it’s important to note that this increase is nothing compared to what you would normally experience lifting weights or engaging in other types of strength training.
Have you ever seen sprinters line up for a 100-meter dash? Those dudes and dudettes are jacked! And yet, it’s highly doubtful that any of these athletes are going on weekly eight minute a mile runs. On the contrary, most athletes of this caliber incorporate strength training into their fitness routines to improve their running economy as they attempt to reach their max level of speed and explosiveness.
Running alone is not enough to build muscle.
Don’t believe us? Check out any world-class marathon runner. Yes, they are studs in their field. However, no one would ever say they have an enviable physique. Proper running form tends to focus on the extension of the hips as you move through your stride, but less work is done throughout the upper body (aside from keeping your shoulder blades down and back to maintain posture).
Jumping rope, however, can help you leverage resistance (in the form of a weighted rope) to burn a ton of calories as you activate major muscle groups from your head to your toes.
Which Is Safer for Your Body?
Contrary to popular belief, jumping rope is not a high-impact exercise.
The goal with jumping rope is to jump no higher than one to two inches off of the ground. While beginners often try to overemphasize jump height to avoid tripping, proper jump height (along with other core jump rope fundamentals) helps jumpers avoid injury and build foundational strength in their feet, ankles, and knees. By jumping on the balls of your feet, you are minimizing and evenly distributing the force of impact of each jump throughout the lower portion of your body, eliminating the heel-to-toe movement pattern common to other injury-prone fitness activities … like running.
Yes, running is bad for your joints.
As reported in Harvard Health Publishing, up to 75% of runners get injured each year. This is mainly due to a mixture of improper form and repetitive impact on less than forgiving surfaces. Other studies show similar results (see here and here). It’s not uncommon for runners to experience a litany of injuries, including shin splints, tendinitis, and stress fractures, as they transfer the force of impact from the ground through passive bodily structures like bones and joints.
When compared to running, jumping rope offers two great injury prevention advantages.
First, it’s almost impossible to jump with improper form to the point of injury. As most experienced jumpers probably know, bad form is likely to result in tripping, whipping, and extreme levels of frustration. That is to say, while you can run with poor form, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to jump rope for an extended period of time with improper form.
Second, with a jump rope in hand, you have total freedom to select your exercise surface. Rather than concrete, you can opt for a more forgiving surface like a padded gym floor or a tennis court. We spent a lot of time in the Zen Dude Fitness years jumping rope around the city of Medellin on pavement, and we don’t recommend it. What we do recommend, given that space may be limited at your gym, is that you consider picking up a Crossrope Jump Rope Mat. Not only will this sturdy, responsive, and forgiving surface help prevent injuries as you jump on the go, but it will also extend the life of your jump rope.
For more information on avoiding jump rope injury, check out our blog post on the topic: 8 Tips to Avoid Jump Rope Injury.
Why We Love Jumping Rope
Well fam, that’s it for today. To finish this blog, we just want to remind everyone why we (Dan and Brandon) have dedicated our lives to jumping rope.
Drumroll please… because jumping rope is FUN!
Look, everyone is entitled to reach their own conclusions in this debate. And while this final point may not come from the scientific literature, we have worked with enough JRD community members over the years (thousands upon thousands) to say with 100% conviction that jumping rope is one of the most fun physical activities you will ever experience. Whatever fitness goals you have in mind, the jump rope can help you achieve them, keep you engaged with a never-ending progression of tricks, and propel you on your fitness journey.
Until next time dudes and dudettes, our advice is the same as always – throw on some music, grab a rope, and start having the time of your life DOING THE THING.