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Hooping It Up: A Guide to Fitness Hooping

Practice

Ah, the ancient Egyptian art of … hula hooping? While we usually think of hula hoops as a fad from the 1950’s, their origins actually go back 3,000 years ago to Egypt and Greece. Children made circles out of dried grapevines, placed them around their hips to play, and the rest is, as they say, history. Millennia later, hula hoops took the U.S. by storm. In 1958, Wham-O sold more than 100 million hoops before the fad cooled down in October of that year. Gyrating your hips while slinging a giant, candy-striped ring was simply too much fun to leave in the Eisenhower era, so hoops are back in fashion, but this time, as a fitness movement.

Hoopers—we’re now sans “hula”—use a weighted hoop, anywhere from about 1 to 3 pounds, which allows the hoop to rotate around the hips more slowly. This gives you more control of your movement and also maximizes calorie burn.

A 2011 study conducted by the American Council on Exercise and the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse found that modern hoop workouts provide effective calorie-burning and cardiovascular benefits. ACE’s chief science officer, Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., wrote in the study, “The findings from our commissioned study indicate that hooping delivers a total-body workout that can improve flexibility and balance while strengthening the back, abdominal, arm and leg muscles.” Hooping burns about 10 calories a minute, or approximately 420 to 600 calories in a one-hour class. That’s the same as a boot camp class or cardio kickboxing class, reports the ACE.

There’s more to hooping, though, than whittling your waist and strengthening your core. Many people report that the repeated motions of hooping make the activity meditative and calming. Hooping is a great stress reliever, sexy and fun, so it turns out those Egyptians were on to something.

Get in the Loop to Hoop

  • Exercise hoops range from 37 to 45 inches. To make sure you have a big enough hoop for your height, choose one that reaches from the floor to at least your hips.
  • Start with a light hoop (1, 1.5 pounds) to make sure the weight doesn’t bother your back.
  • Spin in both directions, so you’re not toning one side of the body more than the other.
  • Nope, the rest of your body is not off the hook. Hooping classes mix it up by using the hoop to do strengthening moves for your arms, chest and legs.
  • Serious hoopers wear flared stretchy pants, or, capris or skirts with a bustle. All the better to swish in circles!

Hoop Dreams: Supplies, Classes, and More

Hoop for Fitness holds classes and events in the Birmingham, Ala. area, like “HoopJam in the Park.” (205) 515-3010.

Hoopnotica sells handmade hoops, travel hoops and hoop/DVD packs.

Green Bay’s Hooked on Hooping offers hoop rentals, introductory classes, themed parties and make-your-own-hoop workshops. (920) 676-8043.

HoopGirl is a brand that has classes in many locations, from Idaho to Ireland. Find a licensed teacher here. The company also offers teacher-training classes in levels 1, 2 and 3.

Prefer to hoop it up in your living room? Try the DVDs “Hoopdance Workout,” “Hoopnotica Fitness,” or the book Hooping: A Revolutionary Fitness Program.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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