Skipping rope is a superior form of cardiovascular exercise. It will get your heart pumping, and all it takes is a rope, a pair of shoes, and some space. You can literally jump rope anywhere, on the beach, in the park, in your basement, even on the moon, and you do not need fancy machines or expensive equipment. This time-tested classic has been used for good reason by elite athletes for decades, and there is a reason boxers (some of the best conditioned elite athletes in the world) use it to condition their bodies, jumping rope builds more coordination and burns more calories per minute than just about any form of cardio, including running, which is thought of as the holy grail of physical conditioning. It also builds up agility, rhythm, and timing, since you need to avoid stopping or letting the rope hit you when it comes up and over your body.
When you jump rope, you are using almost every muscle in your body. The muscles in your feet and calves get the brunt of the work, as you must use the ball of your foot to land and launch from, and if you are a beginner this is where you will feel it most. It also works the quadriceps (thighs), hamstrings (back of legs), core muscles (abdominals, obliques), shoulders (deltoids), and forearms. Herein lies why jumping rope is such a great form of cardio, it uses the big muscles in your body to get you moving, just like other great forms of cardio including running, cycling, swimming, or team sports such as basketball. Different variations, including speeding up your cadence and changing your footwork (skipping, double jumps, high knees) can emphasize different muscles and add variety to jump rope workouts. You can also add more of a challenge by using thicker and heavier ranges, or by wearing a weight vest, therefore increasing resistance and adding to the difficulty of the workout and an increase in calories burned.
Keep in mind, jumping rope is a form of cardiovascular exercise, and will not lead to sizable gains in hypertrophy like intensive weight training will, so it is best to use it as cardio after weight workouts, or on your off days to get the heart pumping. If you are a beginner and you are looking for a good form of cardio, or a seasoned vet just looking to switch things up, give jumping rope a try, you will not be disappointed.