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Skipping Rope Doesn't Skip Workout
When was the last time you jumped rope? It's cheap and portable – and burns more calories than you might think. Give it a whirl!
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What piece of exercise equipment sells for under $20, fits into a briefcase, can be used by the whole family, and improves cardiovascular fitness while toning muscle at the same time? And using it for just 15-20 minutes will burn off the calories from a candy bar? The answer: a jump rope.
Jumping rope is a great calorie-burner. You'd have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you'd burn jumping rope. Use the WebMD Calorie Counter to figure out how many calories you'll burn for a given activity, based on your weight and the duration of exercise.
"It's certainly good for the heart," says Peter Schulman, MD, associate professor, Cardiology/Pulmonary Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. "It strengthens the upper and lower body and burns a lot of calories in a short time, but other considerations will determine if it's appropriate for an individual."
He sees rope-jumping as something fit adults can use to add spice to their exercise routine. "You're putting direct stress on knees, ankles, and hips, but if done properly it's a lower-impact activity than jogging."
For novices, a beaded rope is recommended because it holds its shape and is easier to control than a lightweight cloth or vinyl rope.
- Adjust the rope by holding the handles and stepping on the rope.
- Shorten the rope so the handles reach your armpits.
- Wear properly fitted athletic shoes, preferably cross-training shoes.
You'll need a four-by-six-foot area, and about 10 inches of space above your head. The exercise surface is very important. Do not attempt to jump on carpet, grass, concrete, or asphalt. While carpet reduces impact, the downside is it grabs your shoes and can twist your ankle or knee. Use a wood floor, piece of plywood, or an impact mat made for exercise.
How To Jump
If you haven't jumped rope since third grade, it can be humbling. It demands (and builds) coordination. Initially, you should practice foot and arm movements separately.
- Hold both rope handles in one hand and swing the rope to develop a feel for the rhythm.
- Next, without using the rope, practice jumping.
- Finally, put the two together.
This phenomenon hinders the intake of more -than -required food and therefore, helps in reducing fat generation and accumulation even further.
You'll probably do well to jump continuously for one minute.
Alternate jumping with lower intensity exercise, such as marching, and you'll be able to jump for longer periods. You'll probably never want to jump for a solid 10 minutes. Rather, incorporate it into a varied exercise routine, such as one developed by Edward Jackowski, PhD, author of Hold It! You're Exercising Wrong. He uses rope-jumping intervals, initially 50-200 repetitions, in a combined aerobic and strengthening program.
The highest intensity workout involves one jump each time the rope passes. Slowing the rope to adding an extra little jump reduces the intensity. Pay attention to your target heart-rate zone. That's where you're exercising with enough intensity to benefit from the exercise and not so vigorously as to endanger your health.
Here's how to determine your maximal heart rate: 220 minus your age. The high end of your target zone is 85% of that number; the low end is 70% . If you're 40 years old, your maximal heart rate is 180, and your target zone is 126-153 beats per minute.
Check with your doctor if you have any doubts about your ability to withstand the impact and high aerobic intensity of rope-jumping. As mentioned, shoes and jumping surface are important. As with all exercise, warming up, stretching and cooling down are important. How you jump will determine the impact on your body.
"The real key is to make sure you jump properly," says Roger Crozier. He teaches physical education at Fox Run Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, and coaches a competitive jump-rope team. "Stay high on the toes. When you walk or run, you impact your heel. With rope jumping you stay high on your toes and use your body's natural shock absorbers." Crozier says rope-jumping is lower impact than jogging or running if done properly. If not, it's considerably more impact.
"Beginners usually jump higher than necessary. With practice, you shouldn't come more than one inch off the floor.
Jump Rope for Heart
For nearly 25 years, Jump Rope for Heart has promoted fitness among elementary school students and raised money for heart research and education. It's sponsored by the American Heart Association, and Crozier is a volunteer who's developed training videos for participating schools.
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"Jump Rope for Heart fits so well with physical education because we're fighting heart disease, the number one killer, and stroke, the number three killer," he says. "It's a chance to improve their own health while doing something good for someone else."
He teaches rope-jumping to kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. To say Crozier is enthusiastic about rope-jumping would be an understatement. "If you took all my P.E. equipment away except one thing, I can teach more with a jump rope than with any other piece of equipment."
He says besides being a great exercise in its own right, rope-jumping skills transfer to most athletic endeavors. "One of the key things as an educator I didn't realize until I started working with it is how it builds body awareness. With rope-jumping, you have to be aware of what your body is doing, and it's a great skill for connecting the brain's neurons."
While boxers come to mind as macho guys who jump rope, the U.S. Amateur Jump Rope Federation's national competition is televised. Yet there's still something of a gender issue. "The idea of it as a little girls' recess game is fading as the sport of jump rope grows," Crozier says. "Our competitive team is more heavily weighted with girls, but part of that is because boys have more options. In P.E. classes, it appeals to boys and girls equally."
Crozier says some parents become inspired to jump rope after watching their kids. "They're usually amazed at how hard it is," he says.
SOURCES: Roger Crozier, physical education teacher, Fox Run Elementary School, San Antonio, Texas, and training video advisor, American Heart Association "Jump Rope for Heart" • Peter Schulman, MD, associate professor, cardiology/pulmonary medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Conn.
The Down Low on Low-Carb Diets
How to avoid the pitfalls and side effects of a low-carb weight loss plan.
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You've cleaned out those pantry closets, gone food shopping, and made the commitment. It's official: you're on a low-carb diet!
But while the road to a slimmer new you may be paved with high-protein foods, if you're like most low-carbers it's likely you've also encountered a few potholes along the way.
"Any time you make a fundamental change in your diet your body is going to react -- and when it does you are bound to experience certain symptoms or problems," says Stephen Sondike, MD, director of the Nutrition, Exercise, and Weight Management Program (NEW) at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
When that change involves reducing carbs, he says, among the most common problems is constipation.
"One of the primary places where you are going to see metabolic changes on any kind of diet is in your gastrointestinal tract -- and that can include a change in bowel habits often experienced as constipation," says Sondike, who is also credited with conducting the first published, randomized clinical trial on low-carb diets.
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The reason, Sondike tells WebMD, is that most folks get whatever fiber they consume from high-carb foods such as bread and pasta. Cut those foods out, and your fiber intake can drop dramatically, while the risk of constipation rises.
"However, if you really follow a low-carb diet correctly, you will be replacing those starchy foods with low-carb, high-fiber vegetables -- which should help counter the constipation by providing as much, if not more fiber, than you had before," says Sondike.
Doctors say that eating up to five servings of low-carb vegetables daily -- foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce -- can keep your bowels healthy without interfering with weight loss.
If it's still not doing the trick, Sondike says a fiber supplement -- such as Metameucil or FiberCon can help.
"The one thing I would not do is start taking laxatives -- adding more fiber to your diet is definitely a smarter and healthier way to deal with the problem," says Doris Pasteur, MD, director of the Nutrition Wellness program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
A low-carb diet can help you lose weight because it turns on fat-burning processes, known as "dietary ketosis." These ketones are also thought to have an appetite suppressant effect.
However, Pasteur says that when large amounts of ketones are produced, your body can become quickly dehydrated -- another problem faced by those on a low-carb diet.
The solution: Drink more water.
"The lower your carb intake, the greater your risk of dehydration and subsequently the greater your need for water," says Pasteur. Most low-carb diet experts suggest drinking at least 2 quarts of water daily.
In addition to keeping you adequately hydrated -- which can also help alleviate constipation -- drinking lots of water can also help offset still another low-carb diet problem: bad breath. The ketones produced during the diet can lead to what is sometimes described as a fruity odor although it is often described as having an almost "chemical" odor similar to acetone or nail polish remover.
Now if you're thinking you'll just handle the problem by brushing and flossing a little more often, guess again. Since the breath odor is coming from metabolic changes and not necessarily a dental-related condition, traditional breath products are not likely to provide long-lasting relief.
It is free from caffeine and other stimulants, so can be taken by those suffering from caffeine intolerance.
On the other hand drinking more water intake can do the trick.
"The water helps dilute the ketones in your system, and while that won't affect weight loss, it will help with the bad breath," says Sondike.
Low Carbs and Supplements
The lower your intake of carbohydrates, the greater your need for a vitamin supplement. That's the mantra that most doctors now recommend that everyone on a low-carb diet should never forget.
The reason? Any time you restrict your diet, particularly in terms of certain food groups, your nutrient levels can drop. But when your diet is low carb, experts say you may be in even greater need for certain key vitamins and minerals, particularly folic acid.
"If you're cutting out cereals, fruits, vegetables, fortified grains, then you are cutting out your major source of folic acid, a B vitamin that is not only important when you are pregnant, but important to everyone's overall health," says NYU nutritionist Samantha Heller.
What's more, says Heller, folic acid is key to controlling levels of homocysteine, an inflammatory factor linked to heart disease. If you're already at risk for cardiovascular problems, she says, dropping folic acid levels too low could put your health at serious risk.
One way to protect yourself, she says, is to take a B vitamin supplement -- with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
"All of the B vitamins work together in a very complicated metabolic pathway and they need each other -- so if you are not going to get your source in foods, then a vitamin supplement is a must," says Heller.
Sondike agrees and says that, "Any time you are on a weight-loss diet you need a good multivitamin, regardless of whether you are limiting your carbohydrate intake or not," he says.
Although there has been some evidence that a low-carb diet can also take its toll on calcium levels, Sondike says that fortunately, this is usually only on a short-term basis.
"Your body will often shift metabolism when you do something different to it -- but it equalizes -- you see a rapid shift and a return to normal -- and the longer-term studies show normal results in this area," says Sondike. Still, he tells WebMD it's a "smart idea" to take a calcium supplement beginning at the start of your low-carb diet to safeguard against a possible deficiency.
This of course depends on the ‘brand’ of GCE used, and whether or not it is taken at the right times and coupled with a healthy lifestyle.
Tofu can also be a good source of calcium.
Another mineral you may want to supplement is potassium. While there is no concrete evidence that a dramatic potassium loss occurs on a low-carb regimen, Sondike says to ensure against problems he recommends patients use Morton's Light Salt -- a potassium chloride product that he says can add back any of this important mineral that's lost. Eating a few almonds is also a good way to supplement this mineral without adding carbs to your diet.
Finally, if you stick to your low-carb diet via the use of prepackaged foods, experts say read the label carefully to avoid ingredients that are notoriously responsible for gastrointestinal upsets, and especially excess gas. Among the worst offenders: sugar alcohol, found in sweeteners such as sorbitol.
"Anything above 10 grams or more of sorbitol at a time has been shown to cause gastrointestinal upset -- and some of these low-carb diet foods have as much as 30 grams a serving," says Heller. While it won't make you violently ill, she says, it can make you -- and those in the same room -- pretty uncomfortable.
Sondike agrees and also cautions us to "read the labels."
"If a product is advertised as having 3 net carbs but the label says 35 grams of carbs, then it's likely that 32 grams are sugar alcohol -- and it's probably going to upset your stomach," says Sondike.
SOURCES: Stephen Sondike, MD, director, Nutrition, Exercise and Weight Management Program (NEW), Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Doris Pasteur, MD, director, Nutrition Wellness Program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York City. Samantha Heller, MS, RD, nutritionist, NYU Medical Center, New York City.