Your favorite childhood activity is now a fun and effective workout.
Remember spending hours with a hula hoop as a kid, swaying in those playful, circular motions to keep that bright, circular toy at hip level? It turns out that using this humble childhood toy is great exercise with some seriously healthy benefits.
Hula hooping gets its name from the hula, which is a traditional native Hawaiian dance with ancient roots. The hip movements used to hula hoop are loosely similar to those featured in the hula dance tradition.
Not only do kids play with lighter plastic hula hoops, but anyone can get a great workout using a weighted hula hoop. These are heavier, thicker hoops most likely made of soft material. Weighted hula hoops make the classic waist-centric hula hooping motion more physically demanding on everything from your deep ab muscles to your glutes and legs, resulting in a fun, low-impact, and productive workout. You can also use a weighted hula hoop for arm exercises, spinning them around your arms to work your shoulders and arm muscles, rather than the more familiar waist-level hooping.
Weighted Hula Hoop Benefits
Whether weighted or not, hula hooping has several physical benefits.
It’s an efficient workout that uses lots of energy.
The biggest difference and exercise benefit of a weighted hula hoop compared to a lightweight hoop is the energy you’ll exert while using it, giving you an even better workout, explains Chanha Hwang, PT, DPT, CSCS, owner and CEO of Kinetik Pediatric. “Due to heavier weight, one uses more muscles and must maintain a stronger muscle contraction to continuously spin the weight hula hoops against their waist,” he says. “More muscles recruited and stronger muscle contractions mean an increase in caloric output.”
It really strengthens your core.
According to Jenny Liebl, certified personal trainer and senior product developer at the International Sports Sciences Association, hula hooping increases core strength. Remember, the core muscles includes more than just the front: it's the deep and superficial abdominals, spinal erectors, back muscles, glutes, and upper leg muscles, too. When your core is strong, it can properly support your pelvis and spine, and also support good posture and improve balance, which is especially important for people as they age.
It’s great exercise for cardiovascular health.
Working out with a weighted hula hoop is also excellent for cardiovascular fitness. “[Thanks to] the large number of muscles engaged with hula hooping and the added weight of the equipment, the heart rate is sure to be elevated in as few as three to four minutes of activity,” Liebl says. “This increased heart rate also increases blood flow throughout the body, which, in turn, increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to the tissues and, with consistency and continued effort, can help reduce someone’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dyslipidemia (poor blood lipids), and even have a stress-reducing impact.”
Tips for Buying a Weighted Hula Hoop
You can likely find a weighted hoop at your local sporting goods store, or at online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, or eBay. Finding a hoop that’s the appropriate size and weight is key.
“The larger the hula hoop, the slower it spins, which may be helpful if you’re new to hula hooping,” Liebl says. “Starting with a lighter weight until you gain more strength and experience is also ideal. If possible, try it before you buy it, or at least make sure you can return or exchange your hula hoop if you decide to switch sizes or weights.”
How to Use a Weighted Hula Hoop
Using a weighted hula hoop to exercise is relatively simple in concept, but keeping it going is the hard part. According to Liebl, here are the basic steps to a weighted hula hoop workout:
Step into the hoop and hold it at waist height with one hand on each side of the hoop.
Set your feet about hip-width apart with one foot slightly in front of the other (staggered stance).
Keep your back straight, stand up tall, and engage your core muscles. Remember that includes your abdominals, your glutes, your upper thighs, and your mid and lower back. This is known as bracing, and, when done properly, you should still be able to breathe normally (bracing your core doesn’t mean holding your breath!).
Start with the hoop firm against your lower back and start spinning the hoop: try sending the hoop spinning in the opposite direction of your dominant hand. For a right-handed person, start by spinning the hoop counter-clockwise; for a lefty, spin it clockwise.
Release the hoop from your hands as you begin to spin it and start moving your hips in a circular motion (in the same direction as the hoop), trying to keep the hoop at waist level without falling down. Your hips will move forward as the hoop crosses your abdomen (the front of your body) and back as it crosses your lower back.
The hoop is bound to fall—don’t worry! Pick it up, reset your feet, and start again. With practice, you’ll be able to keep the hoop going as long as you’d like. It’s all about finding a rhythm.
Once you get the hang of it, try waist hula hooping for 30 to 45 seconds, resting for 15 to 20 seconds, then repeating several times until you’re good and tired.
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