More than 500 children jumped rope for hours in competition to raise awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles on Saturday.

Melissa Lara, Coach of the Congress Cubs, said this is her team’s fourth year at the Jump Jam competition, which is a program sponsored by Spectrum Health.

“It brings the kids together and they just love it,” she said. “Their spirits are high and this gives them something to look forward to. I have kids asking me when Jump Jam starts in the fall. It’s just an all-around great event.”

Jump Jam aims to increase knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyle choices, enhance current school offerings of physical activities, create opportunities for physical fitness, foster teamwork, goal setting, sportsmanship and a proactive approach to health.

Third- and fifth-graders from 25 different schools in Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming participated in six competitive jump rope categories.

“I jumped the whole time,” said Arianna Hill and her sister, Kashirah. “It’s about having fun … and winning trophies, too.”

“Getting some exercise is the whole point of jumping,” some of their friends chimed in.

They explained some of their favorite moves: crisscross, double unders, jumping in, single long rope and the iron kid—a move where you do all the tricks together at once.

According to Parade Magazine, “Jumping rope for 10 minutes is the cardiovascular capacity equivalent of jogging for 30 minutes.  You can burn as many as 1,000 calories per hour; it’s a full-body workout that requires a number of muscles to be engaged, which is why it’s an exercise choice for a number of athletes.”

Amy Mabin, physical education teacher and Jump Jam co-coach for the Grand Rapids Montessori’s team, agrees.

“Jumping rope is a part of any sports training program,” she said. “It’s a transferable skill that is an easy and inexpensive way to promote fitness.”

A fifth-grader came up with their team name two years ago—the Red Hot Chili Steppers—and she said it was just too good not to use.

“We find that most of our kids are competitive,” she said. “We have been practicing since the second week of February—two days a week during lunch recess and one day a week after school. It’s quite a commitment and I’m very proud of our kids.”

Harmony Wise, a third-grade student from Congress Elementary, said she really likes doing the double dutch and double under.

“It’s a lot of fun, but I have a lot of jumping to do yet today,” she said as she ran off with her jump rope and colorful hair braids.