When it comes to losing weight, consistency is key — and often, that means finding the simplest, most convenient, and most affordable workout possible, so you have no trouble sticking to the plan. Two options that frequently come to mind? Running, which only requires some sneakers and the open road, and jumping rope, which you can do anywhere while investing only in a super-small (and inexpensive) piece of equipment. But is one more effective than the other for weight loss?
Running may seem like the gold standard for cardio — and it's true that getting in those miles will strengthen your heart and lungs, boosting your endurance, which can help you feel more energized throughout the day. But in order for running to be effective for weight loss, "it also needs to be supplemented with some form of strength training," Sierra Carter, an NASM-certified personal trainer and the founder of Sweat With Sierra, told POPSUGAR. Strength training helps build muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat, even between workouts.
Of course, the same is true for any cardio workout, including jumping rope — but jumping rope has one advantage running doesn't. Jump-rope workouts more naturally fall into the category of high-intensity interval training (or HIIT), which is incredibly effective for burning fat. Why, you ask? Unlike running, which typically involves working out for longer periods at an elevated (but steady) heart rate, jumping rope requires you to push yourself harder in quick bursts of activity — which allows you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, explained Gabby Barreto, MS, RD, a sports dietitian and certified functional-strength coach. Burning calories is the name of the game when you want to lose weight. Add a weighted jump rope, and you'll reap even more benefits.
Ultimately, though, weight loss comes down to simple math, regardless of which workout you choose. "The most important thing for people to understand for weight loss is nutrition," Carter said. "If you're not eating in a calorie deficit, no weight loss is going to occur." You need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. This means that, if you want to lose one pound per week — which is generally considered safe by experts — you'll need to eliminate 500 calories per day by reducing the number of calories you eat and increasing the number you burn through exercise.
It doesn't matter whether you're running or jumping rope or doing some other type of cardio — "Just like anything, it really depends on a number of other factors, like your sleep, stress, and mainly whether you're eating in a calorie deficit," Carter explained. So, choose the workout you like most, and focus on maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as you can in order to reach your goals.