Running vs. Jumping Rope: Which Should I Choose?

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Cardio is an important part of any workout, as it helps you burn calories, manage weight, and prevent heart disease. The types of cardio are numerous, and anything that gets your heart pumping will do wonders for your health. It just comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer to lace up their shoes and go out for a run, while others enjoy a fast-paced, equipment-based workout, such as jumping rope.

Whichever you prefer, both running and jumping rope offer advantages and disadvantages. To choose which one is right for you, you will need to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of both before selecting one (or both).

This allows you to determine what choice is best for your fitness and lifestyle needs and preferences. Here's what you need to know about jumping rope and running including how they compare.

Pros/Cons of Running

Running works your legs and hips, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, quads, calves, and hip flexor muscles. An important factor in your running economy—your body’s energy demand to run at a sub-maximum effort—is ensuring that these muscles are strong and undamaged. If you want to run, make sure you incorporate some plyometric and resistance training. Here are the potential benefits as well as drawbacks of running.

Pros of Running
  • No equipment needed

  • Versatile

  • Lowers disease risk

Drawbacks of Running
  • Hard on joints

  • Repetitious

Pros of Running 

Running provides numerous health benefits and is a sport you can do anywhere—even right out your front door. All you need is a good pair of athletic shoes and the proper apparel. Here are a few benefits to running.

  • No equipment needed. Your most significant expense in running will be your shoes. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, when purchasing shoes you should look for a minimal heel-to-toe drop, which is the difference in thickness of the heel cushion to the thickness in the forefoot cushion. You also want the shoe to be lightweight, 10 ounces or less for a men’s size 9; 8 ounces or less for women’s size 8.
  • Versatile. You can run almost anywhere, as long as you feel safe. Running is a sport useful for those who travel often, as you do not need to bring anything extra other than workout clothes and your running shoes in your luggage to participate. Running in new cities also lets you encounter neighborhoods visitors typically might not see.
  • Lowers disease risk. In a comprehensive assessment of 55,137 adults, ages 18 to 100 years, researchers found that running, even 5 to 10 minutes per day at speeds of under 6 miles per hour, is associated with significantly reduced risks of death and cardiovascular disease.

Potential Drawbacks of Running

Running is not for everyone, as the sport has drawbacks due to the demand on joints. Plus, its lack of equipment or variation can spell boredom—and even burnout—for some people. Here are some of the potential drawbacks of running.

  • Damage to joints. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, injury to weight-bearing joints, such as knees and hips, is a serious disadvantage with running. In addition, pain in the joints is one of the main barriers to running. You might not even want to start the sport at all if you have any sort of joint pain.
  • Repetitious. For people who need constant change in workouts to keep their interest, running could feel too constricting. Putting one foot in front of the other for long periods of time might lead to quick burnout and forgoing any physical activity altogether. The repetition in running is also one of the most common causes of injuries.

Pros/Cons of Jumping Rope

The muscles used when jumping rope are the calves, quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, obliques, abs, biceps, triceps, back, chest, and shoulders. Unlike running, you also are using your upper body to hold and rotate the rope. Here are some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of jumping rope.

Pros of Jumping Rope
  • Improves balance

  • Burns fat

  • Accessible

Drawbacks of Jumping Rope
  • Requires space

  • Tough on the knees

Pros of Jumping Rope 

Jumping rope offers advantages to your fitness, as you work both your upper and lower body. Here are some of the benefits to jumping rope.

  • Balance training. Jumping rope is a powerful exercise for developing balance and coordination. In a study on preadolescent soccer players who incorporated jumping rope into their training, researchers found that jumping rope enhanced general motor coordination and balance and decreased circuit test times, making them in better cardiovascular shape.
  • Burns fat. Jumping rope is effective in burning fat in a relatively low period of time. In a recent study on the effects of a 12-week jump rope exercise program, researchers found participants reduced their body fat, improved body composition, and lowered cardiovascular disease development.
  • Accessible. In a jump rope exercise study, researchers noted that jumping rope is easily accessible. You only need one piece of equipment, which you can take with you when you travel. The sport does need a hard floor or surface, which you can usually find on a sidewalk, in your home, or in a gym.

Potential Drawbacks of Jumping Rope

Jumping rope is not for everyone—especially if you frequently experience knee pain or have concerns with your joints. Here are some other drawbacks to jumping rope.

  • Space. You will need a place to jump rope. If you live in a building with multiple floors, your jumping could upset your downstairs neighbors. You also need to be able to safely hit the ground with the jump rope. So you need to consider the type of floor you're jumping on.
  • Tough on the knees. Like running, jumping rope can cause damage to the knees due to the repetition of movement. If you are fast at the jump rope, you might come down hard and risk damaging the knees over time, especially if the surface you are jumping on is not very forgiving like concrete.

How They Compare

If you are trying to decide between running and jumping rope, determining what is right for you will largely depend on your goals and your personal preference. Much of the time running and jumping rope provide similar benefits. Here is a closer look at how they compare.

Weight Management

For weight management, running and jumping rope burn roughly the same amount of calories per hour. They also both increase your heart rate quickly and build strong endurance.

For instance, jumping rope quickly burns an average of 421 calories per 30 minutes for a 155-pound person. Meanwhile, running at 8 minutes per mile burns an average of 450 calories for a 155-pound person.

Accessibility

Both sports are two of the those most accessible cardiovascular exercises you can do. You do not need any equipment to run and you only need one piece of equipment to jump rope. Both a jump rope or running shoes can easily fit into luggage or a gym bag if you need to travel.

Muscle Groups Worked

The main difference between the two lies in the muscle groups worked. Because you are holding a jump rope, when jumping you will build more arm muscles than you do running. Meanwhile, running works more leg muscle groups. This is why alternating between both exercises is valuable for someone who wants to work a variety of muscles.

What Is Best For You?

Ultimately, you need to consider your individual health background and personal preferences before choosing one. You also can do both and alternate. For example, you can do interval training that incorporates sprinting and jumping rope on one day and then go for a long run on another day.

Neither one is the ideal exercise, but both jumping rope and running provide significant ways to meet the American Heart Association’s exercise recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

A Word From Verywell

Running and jumping rope are similar exercises when you consider they both burn nearly the same amount of calories per hour, require little equipment, and are easily accessible. You can do either one (or both) and gain numerous health benefits as long as you stick with a workout program.

Running and jumping rope both have an impact on your physical and mental health as well. They also can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, if you are new to exercise, have a chronic medical condition, or joint concerns, you should talk to a healthcare provider first. They can let you know which one is right for you or if you should try a less taxing exercise like walking.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do you need to jump rope?

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the Physical Activity Guidelines, which state that adults should exercise at least 150 to 300 minutes per week at moderate-intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week at a vigorous-intensity.

    The guidelines also say that preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week. This means that you could perform a moderately intense jump rope session for 30 minutes 5 times per week and meet these guidelines.

  • Is jumping rope as good as running?

    Based on calories burned per mile, damage to joint muscles (mainly hips and knees), endurance build up, and accessibility, jumping rope is as good as running. They burn roughly the same calories per hour, require little equipment, and can be done almost anywhere.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."