Hula-Hooping: Not Just Child's Play

Wish you could play like a child again? Then hula-hooping might be the perfect workout for you. It's not just kids' stuff, though. Hula-hooping provides boot camp-quality exercise. 

Hula-hoops have been popular since they were invented in the 1950s. In recent years, though, they've provided a lot more than just the fun factor. Hula-hooping gained attention as legitimate exercise when dancers began incorporating hoops into their routines. The invention of weighted hula-hoops, (which rotate more slowly and easily than standard hoops), brought them onto the frontlines of modern exercise as fitness experts searched for fun ways to keep clients engaged.

According to a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), hula-hooping burns about seven calories per minute. That's 600 calories burned in a one-hour total-body workout; about the same as boot-camp style exercise programs. 

The ACE study partnered with researchers at the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. Sixteen female volunteers between ages 16 and 59 practiced a videotaped hula-hoop routine developed by Mary Pulak, founder of Hooked on Hooping, (a group hooping exercise studio based in Green Bay, Wisconsin). The video featured a five-minute warm-up followed by a 30-minute hooping workout including seven different dances performed with one- and four-pound weighted hoops. 

Study participants were evaluated for heart rate, oxygen consumption, perceived exertion, and number of calories burned. The results were consistent with those of other high-paced aerobic activities including circuit training, power yoga, and kickboxing, with heart rate elevations to an average of 80 percent maximum rate.

Hooping is great for developing core, back, leg, arm, and overall muscle strength, balance, and cardiovascular fitness. It requires some basic training, but once you get the hang of it, can provide all the fitness you need. ACE researchers say the rhythmic nature of hooping can even be relaxing and meditative, which makes it a great way to put some Zen and fun into your fitness routine.

Get started by brushing up on your basic hoop skills with a standard non-weighted hoop. Once you've mastered how to rotate it, try out a hoop video and a variety of weighted hoops. Many gyms and fitness centers incorporate hoops into their aerobics classes. So, go ahead and start creating your own hoop dreams.



American Council on Exercise
ACE-sponsored Research: Hooping-Effective Workout or Child's Play?