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Women aged 40 and older gathered in Chicago to relive their jump rope days

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Back in the day, it was typical in some neighborhoods to see girls jumping Double Dutch for hours, leaping high over a set of two ropes being turned to a beat. And recently, hundreds of women, 40 and older, gathered in Chicago to relive those youthful days by jumping rope, socializing and getting healthy during the 40+ Double Dutch Club's third National Play Date. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: It was a perfect day to join friends for play - sunny and warm late morning with lots of music going. Forty-six-year-old Amy Skipper remembered when she began jumping double Dutch. She was about 8. But she hadn't jumped rope for decades.

AMY SKIPPER: It came back just like clockwork. They say once you learn, you never forget. And it came right back. Now, I can't jump as long, but I still got it (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF JUMPING ROPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: There you go.

CORLEY: Pamela Robinson came up with the idea for hundreds of women from across the country to come to Chicago to play for a day. She founded the 40+ Double Dutch Club seven years ago. The 52-year-old says she needed to get out of a funk and remember what brought her joy.

PAMELA ROBINSON: So it takes you back to childhood, back to a time where there's no stress, there's no bills. You don't have any issues when you're a kid jumping rope.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUMPING ROPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: You go around each other.

(CHEERING)

CORLEY: Women gathered in clusters, some turning rope in syncopated rhythms, others counting off and running in the ropes, feet and knees lifting high like they were a part of a giant sports team. Everyone wore a black shirt, the numbers on their back a proud display of their age, every decade from the '40s to the '80s represented.

LYDIA REED: My name is Lydia Reed. I am 48. I will be 49 in September.

LISA BARNES: My name is Lisa. I'm from Philadelphia, and I'm 56.

CORLEY: Lisa Barnes found out about the club through Facebook and says for her and many of the women, the 40+ Double Dutch Club offers them much more than exercise.

BARNES: Love it - the sisterhood, the friendship, the fellowship. And I'm just enjoying myself.

CORLEY: The women play other games, too. They step in unison to a line dance, swing hula hoops around their hips. Some sit to play some jacks. But the main event is double Dutch.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Jack be nimble. Jack be quick. We're over 40 and trying to stay fit.

CORLEY: Some are amazing acrobats.

KIMBERLY BAKER: My name is Kimberly Baker.

CORLEY: Miss Kim, as she's called, is one of the younger ones in the bunch.

BAKER: I'm 43 years old. I used to jump in competition when I was a young girl. And so I stopped. You know, life got grown, and you have kids and all that.

(SOUNDBITE OF JUMPING ROPE)

CORLEY: That hasn't slowed her down. As the ropes turn, Miss Kim jumps in, drops down and does a few pushups, her feet and arms rising together in superb coordination.

BAKER: Today was my first day of doing it. And so I was really, really excited because I finally got it.

CORLEY: And then she throws in a little speed jumping.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Five, 10, 15, three. Five, 10, 15, four. Five, 10, 15, five.

CORLEY: There are now 100 40+ Double Dutch chapters, or sub clubs, as they are called, located in the U.S, Canada, Germany and Israel. The jumpers typically get together once a week. No better way to stay in shape, says Sharon Cockerham.

SHARON COCKERHAM: And to be 65 and in great shape, it's awesome. It's awesome. And I love it. I love jumping. I love teaching people how to jump. And I love the progression of, you know, seeing beginners. I love it, love it, love it.

CORLEY: That's just about what everyone here at the 40+ Double Dutch Club says as they hang together, playing the games they grew up on during a warm, sunny day.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.