You may have played with one as a child or gazed in awe as circus performers did the impossible with them. But have you ever considered the humble hula hoop as a fitness tool?
Sydney PT Rachel Livingstone gives us the low down on the hula hoop and what it can do for you.
The hula hoop has a long history. It found a place in Native America culture and Victorian England. Today it is rumoured Michelle Obama likes to hula and LA has gone crazy for the hula classes of Hoopnotica. We look at whether the hula hoop is more cultural artefact and children’s toy, or a valuable piece of fitness equipment.
Dr McGill of the Dept of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Canada undertook a study to examine the hula’s potential health benefits. Since the circular motion of hula hooping activates the muscles of the torso, he wondered if hula hooping could increase the strength and endurance of these muscles and decrease back pain.
Participants certainly improved their hula hooping skills and probably had fun doing so. They also performed better in some specific strength tests, but the benefits did not necessarily transfer more widely, suggesting the hula hoop should only form part of a core and back care workout.
Surprisingly participants did not seem to lose weight or fat as measured by the skinfold test. However, this is probably due to a change in body composition, because both their hip circumference and waist to hip ratio decreased significantly – a key indicator of a slimmer waistline and better heart health.
Take part in a hula hooping class and you’ll see you work up a sweat and experience muscle soreness the next day. Hula hooping is not just about your waist. The varied moves and more advanced moves integrate your whole body. The American Council on Exercise agrees stating hula hooping can burn up to 400 calories per hour when the whole body is used.
Hula hooping probably does not offer enough health benefits for you to give up your gym membership or throw away your runners and delete your running app. But, go hula if it gets you up out of your chair and nearer the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.
Hula on if the novelty of it could spice up your workout or offer an impact free alternative through injury. Or hula hoop simply because it takes you back to your childhood or offers a fun activity to do you with your own kids.
By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub www.healthhub.net.au