- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

Gina Williams likes to jump for joy. Three times a week, she jumps rope with the Greenbelt S.I.T.Y. Stars at the Springhill Lake Recreation Center in Greenbelt. She participates in double Dutch as well as single jump-roping.

On her days off, she practices by herself. Sometimes her dog, Neca, jumps with her.

“All I have to do is hold his paw,” says Gina, 11, of Northeast. “Sometimes, I hold my feet in the air while jumping. You have to jump as fast as you can. You can’t stop.”

The Greenbelt S.I.T.Y. Stars — S.I.T.Y. stands for Shining, Innovative, Talented Youth — a nonprofit amateur athletic organization, began In 1991 as a jump-rope team to inspire children to be physically fit, says Kim Bradshaw, the team’s coach. The team is part of the U.S. Amateur Jump Rope Federation in Huntsville, Texas, the American Double Dutch League in Cherry Hill, N.J., and the Amateur Athletic Union in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The group (www.greenbeltsitystars.com) will compete on Dec. 4 at the Apollo Theater in New York City with the National Double Dutch League’s 2005 Holiday Classic. The team has earned numerous titles in jump-rope competitions.

Along with fitness, the sport promotes teamwork, self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills. Participants learn to do cartwheels, round-offs, flips and other movements while jumping rope.

“It’s the best exercise out there, next to swimming,” Mrs. Bradshaw says. “They can take their skills and go on to do other sports, like cheerleading, soccer, track and field.”

Even though jumping rope may be hard at the beginning, it gets easier with more practice, says 8-year-old Terra Harper of Capitol Heights, a member of the Greenbelt S.I.T.Y. Stars. Her favorite routine while jumping is “Hold the leg 360,” in which she holds her leg while jumping in a circle on one foot.

“I’ll be strong when I grow up,” Terra says. “I want to have my own team.”

Many Olympic athletes jump rope as part of their training, says Dr. David Johnson, orthopedic surgeon at the Washington Hospital Center in Northwest. He is the assistant orthopedic surgeon for the Washington Nationals and a 1968 Olympic swimmer.

“In the day of my youth, in training for the Olympics, I jumped rope for my legs,” Dr. Johnson says. “During off season, we did it as an out-of-the-water exercise.”

Jumping rope can be an exercise option for injured athletes, he says. Dr. Johnson once knew an Olympic swimmer who jumped rope because he had broken his arm and couldn’t be in the water. He exercised by stepping up and down from a stool and jumping rope, and he made the Olympic team.

Not only is the activity great aerobic exercise, it increases muscle endurance, balance and hand-eye-foot coordination, Dr. Johnson says.

When reversing the direction of the rope, different muscles are strengthened. For these reasons, boxers are known to jump rope as part of their training.

“Boxers don’t win in the first round,” Dr. Johnson says. “If their legs can last, they will win. If the other person is flat-footed, you can come up and punch them out.”

Jumping rope is also a great way to burn calories. In 15 minutes, a 150-pound person can burn about 170 calories jumping rope, Dr. Johnson says. In comparison, during 15 minutes of a vigorous step aerobics class, a 150-pound person burns about 180 calories, while swimming burns about 166 calories.

Ten minutes of jumping rope is equal to 30 minutes of jogging, says Jerry Pete, president of the Jump Rope Store in Portland, Ore.

Schools and community groups have distributed the company’s ropes to students to promote healthful living, he says. Healthy messages can be printed on the ropes’ plastic handles, such as “Eat fruits and vegetables” or “Exercise every day.” Therefore, the ropes become creative marketing tools that help combat the increasing childhood obesity rate in the United States.

“It’s amazing to walk around America these days and see how people are in need of exercise — anything at all,” Mr. Pete says. “The new generation needs a little help, to get away from the sugar and video games.”

When parents buy jump-ropes for their children, Mr. Pete usually suggests that they also buy a rope for themselves. Proper ropes are chosen based on the person’s height.

“It reminds adults of when they were young and playing sports,” Mr. Pete says. “You’re not asking them to do something they haven’t done. It’s just something they haven’t done in a while. It’s kind of like riding a bike.”

Unlike many other sports, jumping rope is portable, says Marty Winkler, owner of RopeSport in Los Angeles, Calif. The jump-rope easily can be thrown into a suitcase or briefcase.

Those people who need extra motivation to jump might look into the company’s four-tape video series, “RopeSport:The Ultimate Jump Rope Workout,” he says. The tapes are a combination of instruction on technique, safety, how to select a good jump-rope and basic jumps.

Because of the variety of jumps shown in the video, the often-repetitive sport becomes fun, Mr. Winkler says. People are more likely to stick with an activity they find fun.

If more than one person is going to use the same jump-rope, it is a good idea to have an adjustable rope. A beaded or segmented rope usually is easier to use, he says.

“They keep a good shape,” Mr. Winkler says. “Therefore, there is less chance to catch on your feet.”

If a person isn’t in a space large enough to swing a rope, he or she still can work out by using the handles without the rope, he says.

“It’s the ultimate easy modification,” Mr. Winkler says. “You get virtually the identical benefits. It’s a great way to learn the moves without having to worry about the rope.”

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