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Skipping offers many health benefits

SKIPPING isn't just for kids on a playground

It's a legitimate form of exercise that is utilized by professional athletes such as boxers, swimmers and football players. It can be a versatile, fun and beneficial way for anyone to exercise, and it's great for your heart and lungs. There are endless benefits to skipping. It will help improve your endurance, cardiovascular health and overall fitness, and improve your co-ordination, flexibility and balance. Furthermore, it burns more calories than many other forms of exercise, making it a great tool for losing weight.

Many people avoid skipping because they become frustrated over the initial clumsy period, but it's worth the effort it takes to get past that first obstacle. Compared to running or jogging, skipping burns a similar amount of calories (approximately 1,000 for every hour), but is easier on your joints and works out both your upper and lower body, instead of just focusing on your lower body. It effectively tones your hips, bottom, calves, thighs, arms, abdominals, chest and shoulders. The jumping motion also increases calcium levels, and thus helps to prevent osteoporosis.

The hardest part of skipping is getting started. To begin, adjust the rope to fit your body. The handles should be about one inch below each armpit when standing on the rope with both feet. Keep your elbows tucked by your side and use your wrists, not your arms, to turn the rope.

Try to prevent yourself from leaning forward or skipping too slowly when starting out, as these are common mistakes. The key is to keep your back straight and not to jump too high, only a few inches from the floor. You also want to make sure you keep the rope tight.

After you become comfortable with the basic movement, you can begin to experiment with different movements and foot combinations. Try moving your feet in the jumping jack motion while skipping, try hopping on one foot, or try alternating your feet in a jogging movement while you skip. After you become even more advanced, you can try skipping backwards, criss-crossing the rope, or letting the rope rotate twice with each jump.

Skipping can be used as your main form of cardiovascular exercise by completing 20 minutes three times weekly. This is an excellent idea because when performed at a good pace, skipping burns 20 calories per minute. It can also be used in interval training, by skipping for two to three minutes in between your strengthening exercises at the gym. Skipping is an excellent form of exercise that is fun, inexpensive and can be done anywhere. It's great for people at all fitness levels, and easily allows you to advance as your skill level increases.

Shaun Karp is a certified personal trainer. Info: www.karpfitness. com.

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