Here is how to start a jump-rope fitness program, according to Nancy Kabriel, president of Rhythmic Aerobics, Inc. It's wise to consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.

*Cautions

Do not jump rope if you are more than 25 pounds overweight. Instead, do a walking program or exercise on a mini-trampoline. Rope jumping is not a recommended exercise for individuals with heart or circulatory problems, diabetes, back problems or joint injuries. If you have any of these problems, consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. If you are overweight or you do not have a regular program of exercise, consult a physician before beginning a jumping program. Vary your jumping style every few jumps to reduce stress on your ankle joints. (i.e. jump on right foot, then both feet, then left foot) Do not jump on concrete or tiled floors. Jump on surfaces which provide cushioning (padded carpet, dense foam, flexible hardwood) Wear athletic shoes that provide shock absorption, arch support and prevent your feet from slipping.

*Tips

1. Stretch for 3 to 5 minutes before jumping.

2. Turn on the music -- it makes the time pass faster.

3. Rest frequently when needed but continue to walk around while resting.

4. Cool down after exercise by slow walking for 3 to 5 minutes, followed by stretching.