When it comes to working out in your 40s and 50s, the idea of repeatedly jumping may seem less than ideal, not to mention less than comfortable for your joints. But did you know that landing from a jump can actually cause an adaptive response that builds stronger bones–which is increasingly important after menopause?
While jumping on trampolines might not give you enough resistance to be effective, and hard-core plyometrics might be too much impact for your joints to handle, Mathew Welch, exercise physiologist and certified athletic trainer at Hospital for Special Surgery, says that jumping rope can hit the sweet spot.
The benefits of jumping rope as we age
Any kind of strength training or jump training when you’re post-menopausal can help improve your bone mineral density and muscle mass, and maintain your estrogen levels, says Welch. “By participating in an activity like jumping rope, you are exposing your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles to a stressor to which they can positively adapt,” he says. “Gradually, over time, you turn on certain genes that help regulate estrogen production and can even delay age-related losses in bone density and muscle mass.”
He points out that a 2015 study of 60 women ages 25 to 50 found that those who performed jumping exercises for just 10 times, twice a day, over 16 weeks saw improvements in hip bone mineral density. If that doesn’t inspire you, consider the fact that the study found that the control group that performed no jumping exercises actually observed a bone density decrease.
Don’t be mistaken though: Jumping rope has benefits beyond bone density. Essentially a full-body exercise, it will elevate your heart rate, which can improve your cardiovascular fitness, for starters, Welch says.
“A 2019 review found that regular plyometric training improved bone health, muscular strength, body composition, postural stability, and physical performance in 176 women from 58 to 79 years old,” Welch shares.
How to add jumping rope to your routine
While many workouts go on for 20, 30, or 60 minutes, jumping rope is best performed in much smaller intervals. “An easy way to start jumping rope is to perform three to five rounds of 20 to 30 seconds,” Welch says. Doing this twice a week is a great place to start.
While that might not seem like a lot, Welch says that taking it slow and steady is the secret behind gradually adapting to the bone-boosting workout. “Most people will go too long with this activity too early on and develop a great deal of delayed onset muscle soreness that can last up to 48 hours post-exercise,” he warns.
With that in mind, he says the key to becoming an expert jump roper is to slowly increase your intervals and rounds each week. A four-week progression could look something like this:
Week 1: Three to five rounds of 20 to 30 seconds Week 2: Three to five rounds of 30 to 45 seconds Week 3: Three to four rounds of 60 to 75 seconds Week 4: Four rounds of 60 to 75 seconds
Embrace your inner child
“Incorporating jumping rope into an exercise circuit can be a great method to keep things fun,” Welch points out. If you want to build a full bone-boosting routine around your jump rope reps, he notes that box jumps (three sets of eight reps) and medicine ball slams (three sets of 20 reps) pair nicely with the exercise (ideally when performing three sets of 45 seconds of jumping rope).
Or, you can keep it simple: Just take out your rope when you’ve got a few spare minutes, and channel your inner playground energy. Beyond all the health benefits, it will make you feel like a kid again.