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I’m out of breath after a few minutes, but it’s hard to tell if it’s because of the cardio or my uncontrollable giggling.
There’s something undeniably fun about hula hooping. Conquer a series of swirls without the hoop tumbling to the floor, and you’ll instantly feel eight years old again – care-free and disproportionately proud of your achievement.
Hula hooping doesn’t really feel like exercise, but apparently, it is. In fact, hooping has become the latest TikTok fitness trend, with millions opting for weighted hoops that are designed to add resistance and strengthen your core.
I’m trying a 1kg hoop from Core Balance, costing £24.99 and advertised as “perfect for beginners and advanced users alike”. I’m definitely the former, but my first swing is a surprise success. Director Josh Piercy tells me the hoops have “easily been our most popular product during the pandemic”.
So, is hula hooping actually good for you? Do you need a weighted hoop? And how can you get started if you haven’t given it a whirl since the playground?
Hula hooping is great exercise
Hooping is a low impact cardio exercise, making it perfect for those who struggle with high impact exercises like running.
“There are many benefits that can be gained from spinning the humble hoop: improved strength, balance, coordination and flexibility, as well as a number of mental health benefits including relieving stress, anxiety and increasing self-esteem,” says Carla Rose, who’s director and lead instructor at HulaFit and holds two Guinness World Records in hooping. “The hula hoop is a powerful tool for boosting your mind as well as your body.”
Hooping can target and train your abdominal muscles, she adds, increasing core strength and stability and helping to slim your waist. “It can also help to tone and strengthen the legs and the glutes, as you need to recruit these muscles in order to keep that front-back or side-side motion going.”
Rose has also developed a seated HulaFit programme that works your arms and core with exercises completed from a chair (more on that later).
Do you need a weighted hoop?
I’ll be honest, the distinct clunk of the weighted hoop into my side does take away some of the enjoyment and, after my initial giddiness passes, I’m feeling a bit tender. Thankfully, Rose tells me heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better.
“Excessively heavy hoops can increase the risk of injury and be really painful to use, causing bruising to your hips and abdomen (bruising is common when you’re learning to hoop, but heavy hoops can worsen the damage),” she says.
“They also shorten the amount of time you’ll be able to comfortably work out with your hoop and restrict the amount of movement you can do, which we think takes away a lot of the fun of a hula hoop workout.”
There are benefits to weighted hoops, though. They create more resistance, which helps tone your muscles more, Rose explains. “But you can burn a similar amount of calories using a lighter hoop as the cardio workout you’re getting is very similar.”
Weighted hoops tend to move slower than smaller, lightweight hoops, making them easier to control if you struggle to keep a regular hoop in the air. But again, Rose says you can slow down your swirl by getting a bigger hoop, not necessarily a heavier one.
“A good rule of thumb is to measure from the floor to your belly button in inches and use that measurement [when buying a hoop],” she says. “If you are taller, curvier or have a larger waistline, we recommend adding a couple of inches to this measurement to get the right hoop size for you.”
If you’re determined to try the weighted hoop trend, Rose recommends buying a hoop no heavier than 1.25kg. “With these hoops you can tone your abs and burn calories safely – and be free to dance around with your hoop,” she says.
Here’s how to get started
You’ve bought your hoop, so how do you do more than two spins without it tumbling? “Push from your core with short, sharp, fast pushes – no big hip circles or twisting side to side,” says Rose. “All that movement has to come from your tummy.
“When you learn to hula hoop, you are learning a new skill like riding a bike - it’s a whole new movement that your body has to learn so be patient with yourself, it will come, you just need to practise.”
Once you’ve got the basic swing down, Rose recommends trying these:
Hoop Squat: “Squatting while swinging the hoop on your waist is a fab legs, bums and tums workout.”
Leg Raises: “Balancing on one leg and hooping is great for increasing your core strength and of course improving your balance.”
Dance Sequences: “Combining dynamic arm and leg movements in a simple choreography to music is great for improving coordination and cardio fitness.”
Limbo: “Learn to limbo with your hoop and bounce your way across the room!” All you need to do is swing the hoop around your waist, while jumping along and leaning back.
Seated Tricep Curl: “Use the hula hoop for added resistance to tone those pesky back of the arm muscles. Sit up tall, lift the chest and engage the core for stability. Holding the hoop with both hands behind the head, straighten your arms above your head, lifting the hoop straight up to the ceiling and making sure to keep the elbows close to the head, pointing forwards, not flaring out.”
To learn more exercises, check out HulaFit classes nationwide to find a session near you – or simply search through YouTube for thousands of tutorials.
Move celebrates exercise in all its forms, with accessible features encouraging you to add movement into your day – because it’s not just good for the body, but the mind, too. We get it: workouts can be a bit of a slog, but there are ways you can move more without dreading it. Whether you love hikes, bike rides, YouTube workouts or hula hoop routines, exercise should be something to enjoy.