He heard about it from a buddy who knew this boxer.

He heard about it from a buddy who knew this boxer.

"Jumping rope ... what's the big deal," Len Cucinotta thought on that fateful day back in 1975. "It seemed like a good way to get a little exercise."

Cucinotta, a native New Yorker, and his pal met at Marine Park in Brooklyn.

"We must have looked like a couple of idiots dressed in our leather jackets trying to jump rope with a piece of line they could have used to dock the Andrea Doria," said the 62-year-old bagel shop owner. "We're lucky we didn't kill ourselves."

But Cucinotta stuck with it, and after a few weeks, he got the hang of it. He skipped during the 18 years he owned a bagel shop in Greenwich Village, then kept up his routine when he moved to Florida in 1996.

"Jumping rope, I never get the aches and pains that I used to get when I was jogging a lot," said Cucinotta. "It seems to be easier on your joints."

Jumping rope has been called the ultimate exercise because it works the arms, legs, heart and lungs. Unlike many exercise programs, it requires minimal investment. A good jump rope costs about $10.

"I love it because you can do it pretty much anywhere. Indoors, outdoors, you name it," said Cucinotta. "A jump rope is portable, so you can even take it with you when you're traveling."

Technique is key. You want to skip from foot to foot, not jump up and land on both feet at the same time. The side-to-side step is a little tricky to master, but it's why Cucinotta can do a demanding workout without taxing his joints.

Cucinotta typically spends about 15 minutes jumping rope, which burns about 200 calories, roughly the same amount burned running a mile.

"It's part of my overall workout, which also includes stretching and lifting weights," said Cucinotta, who at 181 pounds has the tightly packed body of a boxer.

A typical session for Cucinotta includes a 90-second warm-up, then 2-minute rest, 3 minutes jumping rope, 2-minute rest, 3 minutes jumping rope, 2-minute rest and 3 minutes jumping rope.

"It's a lot harder than it sounds," he said.

Dan Birmingham, who has trained professional boxers, said jumping rope can be an integral part of any fitness plan.

"That's the first thing I start people with," said Birmingham. "It's the best way to develop overall conditioning."

Birmingham recommends starting off slow.

"If you can do three minutes straight and work your way up to six you are doing pretty good," he said.

Professional boxers can go 24 minutes straight without missing a beat.

"The trick is to stay as close to the ground as possible and skip, not jump," Birmingham said. "That's the only way you will get into a rhythm."