Hula-hooping may seem like a frivolous pastime, calling to mind children playing in the backyard or 1950s beach bunnies shimmying to surf rock. But swiveling those hips can be serious exercise.
Originating in ancient Greece and Egypt, the earliest forms of Hula-Hoops were woven from grapevines and used as workout equipment. Modern-day manufacturers have taken a page from that period in history and have started to produce a series of hoops for the health conscious.
Weighted hoops — typically 1 to 4 pounds and 37 to 45 inches in diameter — provide an intense workout, say Jordan Holthusen, MS, and John Porcari, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse exercise and health program, whose team is the first to study their effects. (“Believe it or not, we couldn’t find any other published data on Hula-Hooping,” Porcari jokes.)
The researchers enlisted 16 women between the ages of 16 and 59, all of whom were intermediate- to advanced-level hoopers, to learn a new Hula-Hooping routine, then monitored them during 30-minute sessions.
The results were impressive: Hoopers burned an average of seven calories per minute, or 210 calories per workout, and reached 84 percent of their maximum heart rate. That level of intensity promises weight loss and cardiovascular improvements similar to cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and boot-camp-style classes.
In addition to these benefits, published in the American Council on Exercise Certified News (January 2011), hooping can tone your abs, back, arms and legs while improving flexibility and balance. And it’s a workout you can do just about anywhere, Porcari says. “Plus, hooping has mental benefits, because people really enjoy it,” he says. “It’s a high-energy, fun workout that takes your mind off the fact that you’re working out.”