Jump Rope vs Running: Which is a Better Workout?

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If you want a fantastic workout, you may be wondering which is better — running or jumping rope? While it’s a natural question, let’s also remember that the best workout is the workout you love and will do every day. We can compare and contrast different workouts all day long, but the truth is that you get out of any exercise regimen exactly what you put into it.

That being said, it’s worth comparing and contrasting different training methods, because everyone has different goals, and not every regimen is optimized for every goal. So let’s take a closer look at running and jump rope to see which is the better workout.

Running

Human beings were “born to run.” It’s been part of the human experience for as long as we’ve been a species, and one of the first things we naturally learn to do as children. Running is a great cardio workout, but it’s also often a source of sheer joy. There’s a reason people talk about the runner’s high.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is also often a skill learned on the playground, and it’s an incredibly efficient cardio workout. It’s a favorite of boxers and competitive athletes. People love jumping rope because jump ropes are so light and portable, so you can do it anytime, anywhere.

Running vs. Jumping Rope: Which is the Best Workout?

Here are some of the most common criteria people use when evaluating a workout. Let’s look at them one by one.

Accessibility/Affordability

Some fitness regimens call for a lot of expensive equipment, have a steep learning curve, or can only be done in certain places and times. An accessible workout should be flexible to fit into a busy schedule, not require a big investment in gear or equipment, and not require you to only train in a specific place.

Both jumping rope and running are highly accessible, affordable workouts.

Winner: Running

Great running shoes are easy to find and affordable, and there’s no other equipment or skill required. To jump rope, you need good shoes, but also need to buy and carry a jump rope. It’s extremely affordable, but still counts.

Cardiovascular Health

Both jumping rope and running are excellent cardio workouts. Aerobic or cardio workouts are excellent for heart and lung health, helping strengthen your heart and improve your lung capacity. Cardio health is not only important for your overall health and longevity, but it’s critical for all kinds of athletic activities, helping you perform better no matter what you are doing.

Winner: Draw

Provided you are monitoring your heart rate and working at the correct intensity, these are both great cardio workouts.

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Both jumping rope and running are excellent cardio workouts that can help strengthen your heart and improve your lung capacity.

Chance of Injury

Most workouts carry some risk of injury, either from strain or over-exertion, or from the stress of repeated impacts. Injuries can be prevented by having good form and not over exerting yourself. Both running and jumping rope are high-impact workouts, carrying the risk of shin splints and stress on the legs and feet.

Winner: Jumping rope

While both activities are high-impact, the correct form for jumping rope is to bounce only 1-2 inches off the ground, keeping the weight and impact on the balls of your feet. While a person jumping rope can correct their form and pace to reduce impact on the feet, a runner really can’t alter their form to keep impact off of their heels.

Competitive Rewards

For some people, the goal of training is to win. Adding a competitive element provides concrete goals, extra motivation, and the pride of accomplishment.

Winner: Running

While there are jump rope competitions, they don’t have the viability, prestige, or pride of running a marathon.

Convenience

Some people travel often, have a busy schedule, or simply can’t go to the gym as often as they would like. They need a great workout that they can do anytime, anywhere, with virtually no obstacles.

Winner: Jumping rope

By just a nose, because you can get a good jump rope workout in a hotel room, office, or other small space, while it’s difficult to get a good cardio run in a confined area without a treadmill.

Ease of Cross-Training/Adding Intervals

Cross training or interval training is an incredibly important part of any workout regimen. Intervals increase your overall fitness, add challenges and difficulty, and keep workouts from becoming boring and repetitive. They are also a great way to bust through plateaus and keep improving over time.

Winner: Draw

Both running and jumping rope give ample opportunities to add increased intensity intervals by moderating your pace or increasing the difficulty.

Efficiency of Workout

While some people want to run a marathon, some people don’t have that kind of time. They need workouts that they can do fast, with maximum effectiveness.

Winner: Jumping rope

Unless you are sprinting, jumping rope is simply a more time-efficient workout. In fact, a study shows that 10 minutes of jumping rope has as much cardio impact as jogging for 30 minutes. 

Endurance and Stamina

Some workouts aren’t about speed: they are about endurance. Endurance athletes know that over time, stamina challenges the mind as well as the body. While the primary factor in endurance is heart health, so both running and jumping rope will build stamina, which is better?

Winner: Running

For those looking to train for long-distance or endurance events, there is simply no substitute for doing long-distance, endurance workouts. It helps to train your mind as well as your body for the special conditions of distance athletics.

Full Body Engagement

Never skip leg day. Some people want a workout that engages the whole body, rather than focusing on specific muscles. Full body workouts also help to reduce the risk of injury as specific body parts bear the brunt of the impact and stress.

Winner: Jumping rope

Jumping rope naturally involves the arms and shoulders, even without adding special techniques or intervals to engage the upper body. Not only that, but it can be very difficult for runners to cross-train other body parts without losing their running form.

Improved Coordination

Some people want a workout that helps their body work as a well-oiled machine, with great balance, coordination, and control over their movements.

Winner: Jumping rope

Improved coordination is specifically why boxers use jump rope workouts. The body has to move in unison, with efficiency and grace. Running does help to build and improve coordination, but not nearly as effectively as jumping rope

Improved Flexibility

Can a cardio workout improve flexibility? For most people, the perfect workout would not only strengthen the muscles, but make them more flexible as well, allowing you to easily access the full range of motion. Flexibility also helps to prevent strain and injury.

Winner: Jumping rope

While neither of these workouts is focused on flexibility, jumping rope has a lot of simple intervals that improve flexibility and range of motion while getting a cardio workout.

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Lateral and Asymmetrical Movement

Trainers and physical therapists are paying more and more attention to the importance of lateral and asymmetrical movements in workout regimens. That’s because most of the functional physical activities of daily life are asymmetrical; reaching across your body, carrying groceries, participating in sports, are all activities where the body is more engaged on one side than the other, often to an extreme degree. 

Winner: Draw

Jumping rope makes it convenient to incorporate asymmetrical or lateral elements, which improves overall fitness and agility. Serious runners, on the other hand, are trying to achieve perfect symmetry in their running form, to improve their efficiency.

Muscle Tone and Condition

Getting great muscle tone is a very common workout goal. Again, as cardio exercises, neither running nor jumping rope are specifically intended to tone muscles. Of course, because both activities engage and work a lot of major muscle groups, the muscles get toned along the way.

Winner: Jumping rope

While running is great for toning the muscles of the lower body, and the core muscles as well, jumping rope engages those muscles as well as the arms, shoulders, and chest. Because it exercises the whole body, jumping rope is more efficient at toning and conditioning all the muscles at once.

Recovery

The possibility of soreness and aches the next day can really put people off of a workout regimen. It’s the primary reason that so many New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned so early. For people who want a workout that won’t cause pain and strain, which is better: running or jumping rope?

Winner: Running

Because running is similar to the ordinary walking you do every day, chances are that you can start a running regimen without as much soreness and aching as jumping rope.

Jumping rope engages muscles, particularly in the calves and ankles, that aren’t as often used in that way, and soreness is common for beginners. Remember that, no matter what your workout regimen is, it’s important to start slow and gradually build up, and always warm up and cool down for a quick recovery and to prevent soreness.

Skills and Tricks

Some people want to show off a little bit. It’s one of the reasons that workouts like calisthenics have become so popular; it’s cool to have some tricks and skills to show off while you are working out.

Winner: Jumping rope

Running alone isn’t very impressive, unless it’s very fast or over long distances. Jump rope workouts can incorporate all kinds of fun and interesting tricks that keep the workout challenging and keep your skills growing. After all, doesn’t everyone want to jump rope like Rocky:

Strength

Some people want a workout to make them measurably stronger. Again, these are both cardio workouts, so neither is optimized for building muscle strength.

Winner: Draw

Jumping rope doesn’t necessarily help you build muscle, and it isn’t a strength workout, but you can choose to use a weighted jump rope that will add a strength element to a cardio workout. Likewise, when running, you can add wrist or body weights to build strength while you run.

Weight Loss And Calorie Burn

Finally, some people want a cardio workout that simply helps them lose weight and burn calories. Most people who want to shed pounds want to do it quickly, so which workout is best?

Winner: Draw

While jumping rope is famous for how efficiently it burns calories, the differences in running and jumping rope even out over time. Over 30-60 minutes, the calorie burn is the same for both workouts.

The difference is that most people can’t jump rope for more than 10-15 minutes at a time, because it’s so intense, and most people also can’t get a good running workout in less than 30 minutes. If you want to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, jumping rope is the clear winner. If you will be working out for an hour or more, running at a moderate pace of 9-10 miles an hour burns as many calories as jumping rope at a moderate pace.

Conclusion

As you can see, both workouts offer very similar benefits, and are great workouts. Running is an incredibly rewarding activity, and there’s a reason that it’s practiced by millions of people around the world. However, jumping rope is the clear winner for people who want a very efficient, effective, full-body workout that they can do anywhere, any time.

If you are interested in starting a jump rope training regimen, remember that it’s an intense workout, so always warm up and start small. It’s not unusual for even advanced jump rope workouts to take just 10 minutes. Here’s a great video that shows you the basic moves:

and here’s an excellent beginner jump rope workout:

As we said in the beginning, the best workout is the workout you enjoy and will do regularly. Fitness is everyone’s personal journey, so choose the cardio workout that is best for your needs and preferences, and stick with it for great health for life.

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