As we grow older, we often stop indulging in the childhood habit of skipping. In fact, when was the last time you skipped anywhere? Skipping is usually thought of as being a playground activity only reserved for children. However, like so many other forms of play, we tend to leave skipping behind with age as we become young adults and opt for more serious forms of exercise such as jogging or running. However, a lot of new research has shown that running might be doing a lot of harm to the joints, bones, and bodies of people who prefer this as their primary form of exercise. Now, new research suggests that skipping might be a better-suited activity for those who want the benefit of cardio activity from running but want to avoid any injuries. Read on to find out why you should try skipping instead of running.
How is Skipping Better For Your Body When Compared to Running?
Research from two North Carolina universities has shown that people who want to gain the cardio benefit of running but also avoid the injuries may find skipping to be a better form of exercise than running. To study the different effects of running and skipping on the body, researchers from the Appalachian State University and East Carolina University carried out research with 30 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years. The group was divided equally between men and women.(1)
Each participant of the study participated in a training program that taught them how to skip properly for long distances of up to one mile while being on a laboratory treadmill. Once the participants of the study were able to do this successfully, the researchers started to take measurements of force, gait, and energy expenditure, meaning how many calories got burned.(2)
The authors of the study found that running produced almost two times the peak force on the kneecap or patella as compared to skipping. The average peak force applied on the knee hinge where the tibia, femur, and patella meet (tibiofemoral joint) was found to be 30 percent greater in people who run as compared to those who skip. Skipping also allowed for a higher calorie burn as skippers were able to successfully burn 30% more calories than runners.
While running is an important part of many athletic activities and it has its own benefits as well, but the study concluded that skipping as an alternative form of locomotion has a lot of untapped potential.
Downsides to Running
Since running is a repetitive and weight-bearing exercise, injuries are very common. It is estimated that nearly 60 percent of runners experience a running-related injury that is severe enough to need a break from exercise altogether.(3)
Some factors, like not wearing the correct running shoe, can make runners even more prone to getting injured since shoes help cushion the impact from landing while running. However, the most common reason behind why runners get injured is due to the fact that they do too much too soon. It is possible to avoid injury while running by monitoring their own fitness level and ensuring that they are not over-exercising.
Increasing the weekly running distance too quickly can also cause injury. A study carried out in 2014 and published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that out of 874 runners, those who increased their weekly running distance rapidly by over 30 percent each week were nearly one and a half times more likely to get injured as compared to those who increased the distance by less than ten percent every week.(4)
Most of the running injuries occur due to repetitive force being applied on the knees, feet, and shins.
Should We Make The Switch To Skipping?
One fact that cannot be ignored is that there is a growing number of people who face injuries as a result of running. It is estimated that nearly 79 percent of runners report some type of injury at any given time. The most common injuries caused by running are to the lower extremities and knees. This is believed to be because of the force that is applied to the bones and joints.(5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Runners have a cyclical gait when they are either launching by using the power of their other leg or when they are landing with impact absorbed by one leg. In contrast, skipping gives a period of support to the natural gait by stepping and hopping on one leg, and then stepping and hopping on the opposite leg, and then repeating. Even such a small moment of support with one or both the legs helps reduce the force that is applied when your feet hit the ground.
This is especially important for people who have pre-existing knee issues. This means less knee pain when you exercise with skipping instead of running. However, since skipping involves shorter striders, you will not be able to travel as far when you are skipping. Skipping is great for burning calories, which makes it a more efficient form of exercise, but of course, a less efficient means of travel.(10, 11, 12)
At the same time, there are some potential drawbacks to skipping as well. Skipping is likely to put less impact through the knee joints, but it tends to put more repetitive stress on the calves and ankles.(13) To ensure better joint health, it is best to consider mixing skipping with other forms of activity. A combination of both skipping and running would be ideal for burning the most calories and also giving your body a break from excessive stress. Change the forms of cardio exercise on different days. Each activity, be it skipping or running, requires different engagement from the various muscles groups involved. This is why alternating on days is good, especially if you feel sore after either one activity.
Conclusion: Where Should You Skip?
Unlike what the participants did in the study mentioned here, it might be problematic for most people to try skipping on a treadmill. In fact, it might prove to be downright harmful to attempt to skip on a treadmill. Skipping on a treadmill is not recommended as the skipping gait gets syncopated, and since the treadmill is moving at a constant rate, it increases the chance of injury. It is best to get back to skipping someplace outside, including a yard, running trail, or track. Remember to enjoy whatever exercise you are doing, as the enjoyment is also beneficial in itself. So if you find skipping fun and enjoyable, you should skip away to gain the medical benefits from this activity at the same time.
- McDonnell, J., Zwetsloot, K.A., Houmard, J. and DeVita, P., 2019. Skipping has lower knee joint contact forces and higher metabolic cost compared to running. Gait & posture, 70, pp.414-419.
- BURNED, A.C. and HOUR, P., Running: An Overview.
- Cleveland Clinic. 2021. 6 Expert Tips to Prevent Running Injuries. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/8765-preventing-running-injuries> [Accessed 29 December 2021].
- Nielsen, R.Ø., Parner, E.T., Nohr, E.A., Sørensen, H., Lind, M. and Rasmussen, S., 2014. Excessive progression in weekly running distance and risk of running-related injuries: an association which varies according to type of injury. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 44(10), pp.739-747.
- Van Gent, R.N., Siem, D., van Middelkoop, M., Van Os, A.G., Bierma-Zeinstra, S.M.A. and Koes, B.W., 2007. Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine, 41(8), pp.469-480.
- Van Mechelen, W., 1992. Running injuries. Sports medicine, 14(5), pp.320-335.
- Fields, K.B., Sykes, J.C., Walker, K.M. and Jackson, J.C., 2010. Prevention of running injuries. Current sports medicine reports, 9(3), pp.176-182.
- Clement, D.B., Taunton, J.E., Smart, G.W. and McNicol, K.L., 1981. A survey of overuse running injuries. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 9(5), pp.47-58.
- Messier, S.P. and Pittala, K.A., 1988. Etiologic factors associated with selected running injuries. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(5), pp.501-505.
- Pavei, G., Biancardi, C.M. and Minetti, A.E., 2015. Skipping vs. running as the bipedal gait of choice in hypogravity. Journal of Applied Physiology, 119(1), pp.93-100.
- Minetti, A.E., 1998. The biomechanics of skipping gaits: a third locomotion paradigm?. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 265(1402), pp.1227-1233.
- Johnson, S.T., Golden, G.M., Mercer, J.A., Mangus, B.C. and Hoffman, M.A., 2005. Ground-reaction forces during form skipping and running. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 14(4).
- Vuillerme, N. and Boisgontier, M., 2008. Muscle fatigue degrades force sense at the ankle joint. Gait & posture, 28(3), pp.521-524.0