Hula hoops were dubbed the "granddaddy of American fads" in the 1950s. But hula hoops have come around again with a renewed emphasis on their health benefits.
Some of you may remember when the “granddaddy of American fads” first hit Canada in the 1950s. Although the exact origins of hula hoops are unknown, the fascination with this leisure time activity continues to encircle the globe.
Today, hooping, also known as hoop dancing, is one of the newest fitness trends. Take, for instance, American First Lady Michelle Obama, and celebrities such as Marisa Tomei, Beyoncé, and even basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who use the hula hoop to stay fit and have fun.
It’s not just the standard lightweight hoop that’s central to the modern-day rage. Weighted hoops are being promoted in the fitness industry with health benefits that may be pivotal in sparking your interest to get active.
Lightweight versus weighted hoops
While little research has been conducted on the benefits of weighted hula hoops, any kind of hula hooping can be an aerobic activity if it’s performed for at least 10 minutes.
To address the lack of evidence-based research, a recent study was conducted at the University of Wisconsin to analyze the exercise intensity and calorie-burning potential of hula hoop workouts. The study found that approximately 210 calories were burned per 30-minute session using a lightweight hoop, which allowed for hooping to fall within accepted guidelines for exercise that can contribute to weight management.
Other benefits found in the study include improvements in flexibility and balance, while strengthening and toning the muscles of the back, abdomen, arms, and legs. The cardiovascular benefits were comparative to cardio kickboxing, boot camp, and step aerobics. For some, the rhythmic nature of hooping may also be calming and meditative.
Larger, heavier hoops, as opposed to lightweight hoops, rotate around the body more slowly, making it easier to move while potentially burning more calories and eliciting improved fitness benefits.
Choose the right hoop
If you choose to hoop, it is important to pick the best fit for you. When the hoop is resting vertically on the ground, it should reach somewhere between the waist and the chest. Standard sizes range from 37 to 45 inches in diameter and weigh between 1 and 4 pounds.
The weight you choose is up to you. However, based on feedback from thousands of weighted hoop users, general height and weight guidelines have been drawn up (see below).
To get started, place the hoop over your head and hold the hoop so it rests against the small of your back, slightly above your waist. Put one foot ahead of the other, standing with your feet at a comfortable distance apart. Then push the hoop so it starts to move in a circle around your waist.
To keep the hoop moving, shift your weight forward and backward, from one foot to the other. You may also choose to stand with feet parallel and hip width apart, and sway side to side to keep the hoop moving.
Hula hoop classes typically start with a warmup or basic hooping around the waist, which works the abdominal muscles. More advanced moves follow, such as walking and turning with the hoop, and moving it around the hands, feet, and legs.
So if you’re going in circles trying to decide how to become active or add variety to your workout, why not grab a hoop and let it do the job for you?
Those with a history of back or leg problems should be cautious about using a hula hoop. Consult with your health care practitioner to determine if it’s a safe exercise option for you.
What size hoop do I use?
These are general guidelines for beginners. Depending on your fitness level, choose the weight that feels most comfortable for you.
Weight of hula hoop
under 5 ft
1 to 5 lb
5 ft to 5 ft 10 in
2 to 5 lb
over 5 ft 10 in
3 to 5 lb
Where can I hoop?
For more information on hula hooping or to connect with hoopers in your area, visit hooping.org
Hula hoop records
These records were compiled by Guinness World Records:
- 113—number of people who participated in the largest hula hoop workout
- 64—the most rotations of a giant hula hoop in one minute
- 2 minutes, 38 seconds—the longest time to hula hoop underwater