WASHINGTON -- If you think keeping fit is merely mind over matter, Lester Clancy has an invention for you: a cordless jump-rope.
That's right, a jump-rope minus the rope. All that's left is two handles, so you jump over the pretend rope. Or if you are truly lazy, you can pretend to jump over the pretend rope.
And for that idea kicking around Clancy's head since 1988, the U.S. Patent Office this month awarded the 52-year-old Mansfield, Ohio, man a patent. Its number: 7037243.
What makes this invention work is the moving weights inside the handles. They simulate the feel of a rope moving, Clancy said. Well, it's only one handle so far because Clancy is waiting for financial backers before building its partner.
But why jump rope without a rope?
It's perfect for the clumsy, Clancy said. "If you are still jumping, you're still using your legs as well as your arms, and getting the cardiovascular workout. You just don't have to worry about tripping on the rope."
It is also good for mental institutions and prisons where rope is a suicide risk, said Clancy, who works as a laundry coordinator in a state prison. And low ceiling fans aren't a hazard any more, he said.
Daniel Wright, who features the cordless jump-rope on his Web site http://www.patentlysilly.com, can barely talk about Clancy's invention without laughing.
"What really grabbed me," Wright said, "was the name the item has in its patent."
The idea isn't all that crazy, said Mike Ernst, a professor of kinesiology at California State University in Dominguez Hills.
"I think it's silly, but at the same time if somehow, some way it promotes physical activity, gets kids active, then I'm all for it," Ernst said.
The more he thought about it, the more Ernst said he could see the benefit, adding that the act of jumping, not the rope itself, is what provides exercise.
"Do you need to jump with a rope? You don't," Ernst said. "But I wouldn't buy the product, I can tell you that. I'm not an idiot."
High-tech handles aren't needed. You could even use toilet paper holders, Ernst said. On second thought, he wondered if he could patent that idea.
But the thing that scares me is that we are now going to have a whole generation of young people who aren't going to be able to use an old-fashioned jump rope...Our society is in shambles...Right Omaha?