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Dismiss the myth

No. 2: Skipping is a traditional playground game, but it isn't real exercise.

Wrong. The health benefits of skipping are huge - it's an excellent way to keep fit and it gets your heart pumping as much as any other sport. The harsh reality is that the UK's children are not doing enough exercise. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends that those aged five to 18 participate in physical activity of moderate intensity for at least one hour a day. However, in England, only 55 per cent of boys and 39 per cent of girls are active for at least an hour on five or more days a week.

Skipping is a great way to get anyone moving and it is an ideal form of exercise for children, because it is fun and easy to do. It can be carried out individually, in small groups or by teams. A great advantage of skipping is that it is non-competitive, so everyone can succeed in their own way.

Not only is "jumping rope" easy to learn, it can be taught simultaneously to people with a range of abilities.

Children can work their way up from single and long rope skipping to jumping with a partner and playing double-dutch (jumping over two ropes swung crossing over each other by two turners). It can be great fun and this is where the key to successful exercise lies: if children enjoy it they're much more likely to keep doing it.

Skipping is great for PE lessons, in the playground, after school and at home. Like any moderate rhythmic physical activity, it helps maintain a healthy heart. It reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease, having a stroke and developing diabetes. It also helps lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol levels. Participating in any kind of regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight.

The BHF is working to promote the health benefits of skipping and show children that they really can enjoy exercise. Jump Rope For Heart, its skipping initiative, is an ongoing scheme that promotes the importance of maintaining a healthy heart through regular exercise, while raising funds for heart research, education and patient care. The BHF also runs a series of free skipping workshops where teachers can learn techniques, health benefits and tips on how to transfer these skills to the gym or playground.

l The BHF organises a national skipping festival at Loughborough University on May 16. For details of this event and Jump Rope for Heart, tel: 020 7487 7149 Email: Look out for the free poster on skipping in TES Teacher on June 4

Professor Sir Charles George is medical director at the British Heart Foundation.

This is the second of 10 myths to be dismissed this term.

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