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Hula Hoop Workouts for Fitness and Weight Loss - Do They Work?

September 21, 2017 7 min read

Hula Hoop Workouts for Fitness and Weight Loss -  Do They Work? The Definitive Guide. Yes! Hooping workouts with weighted hula hoops help you to burn calories, trim your waist & lose belly fat.

Hula hoop workouts for fitness and weight loss? Are you kidding! Yes please.

Written by Bunny HoopStar, September 2017

Who wants to go a gym?! Not me, that’s for sure.

Hooping workouts, particularly with weighted hula hoops, are all the rage in the fun fit world. There’s a reason for that - they’re FUN!

But does hooping really work as a fitness tool and will it help you lose weight?

After 23 years of hooping, and 12 years of teaching people how to hoop, I’ve been studying the benefits of hula hooping extensively in my classes, my personal practice and my hoop community. I’ve also read numerous articles online and found two important scientific studies.

Don’t be fooled, successful hooping, fitness and weight loss can all escape you without the facts and a well formed strategy. You want to spin through the hype so you can develop your own personalised exercise routine that works for you.

Below I share the top 10 questions I get asked about hooping.

Hula Hoop Workouts for Fitness and Weight Loss - Do They Work?

1. What is the right size hula hoop?

Because I get asked this question all the time, I’ve createdThe Ultimate Guide on How to Choose a Hula Hoop.

Pro-tip: bigger is better for newbies and plus-sized hoopers! Weighted fitness hula hoops, weighted dance hoops or even  weighted polypro hoops are all great options. Read morehere

2. Can Hula Hooping help you lose belly fat?

Yes! This recent study from the USA supports what most hoopers know and love - hooping reduces body fat around the abdomen and hips. Your hula hoop workout results will depend on your fitness level, your body size and your endurance. Build your hoop practice slowly to develop a sustainable workout. How long should you hoop for to lose weight? See below.

3. Can a hula hoop trim your waist?

You betcha! Read on.

4. How long should you hula hoop to lose weight?

Start by hooping for 5 minute intervals then increase your workout in 5 minute increments until you are hooping for 20-30 minutes. According to this study by the American Council on Exercise, 30 minutes of hooping will burn approximately 210 calories. 

“Hooping compares pretty favorably with most other group classes, in terms of heart rate and calorie burn” ... In fact, exercisers can expect similar results from hooping as they’d get from boot-camp classes, step aerobics and cardio kickboxing—all of which meet fitness industry criteria for improving cardiovascular fitness. Also, by burning approximately 210 calories per 30-minute session, hooping falls within accepted guidelines for exercise that can contribute to weight management. [Source]

The best way to stay engaged in your hoop practice is to rock out to your favourite music. Make a playlist and hoop those calories off!

IMPORTANT - hooping, as a single step solution, will not “make” you lose weight. There are many essential factors to consider in approaching weight loss. My own experience with weight loss and hooping has included dietary adjustments and a complementary exercise routine developed through regular physiotherapy and gentle yoga.

ESSENTIAL - consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns specific to your individual condition. 

5. Is a hula hoop good for abs?

You know, you’d really think so - how could hooping not be good for the abs? While hooping does indeed trim your waist, reduce body fat, increase your heart rate, boost your stamina, improve your body's alignment and make you feel amazing, according tothis recent study - hooping showed “no improvements in torso muscular endurance as measured by isometric testing” (plank tests). Dang it!

               What about that six pack and all the core strength you’ve been hooping for?

To target your abs, or core strength in all movement modalities, you need to consider alignment, foundational support and correct movement. The key to a strong core includes exercises such as curl ups, crunches, leg lifts, bicycle legs and, you guessed it - planks! With a strong, stable core your hooping will become easier and safer for you to enjoy. Don't forget to breathe!

You need to “include core conditioning into your dance training to improve body placement and reduce risk of injury.”
Jacqui Haas, Dance Anatomy

So while spinning a hula hoop may not necessarily give you abs of steel, it will help you align your body for the core stability, endurance and focus that you need to build core strength and develop a full body workout through hoop dance. 

The American Council on Exercise recognises hooping as a total-body workout:

Given the variety of movements in hooping it should be considered a total-body workout that has the potential to improve your flexibility and balance while strengthening and toning the muscles of the back, abdomen, arms and legs. The rhythmic nature of hooping may also be relaxing and almost meditative for some. [Source]

Physiotherapy, yoga and pilates are all great options as foundational core training complements to your hooping. With these additional exercise routines, not only will you set yourself up for a sustainable hula hoop practice - with killer abs - but you will also add to your toolkit of skills for a longer lasting life.

6. Can I use same weighted hoop for legs/arms etc?

Interesting question - technically, yes. Ideally, no. Over the 10+ years of developing my hula hoop product range and teaching adults and kids how to hoop, I’ve noticed what works best and what doesn’t. While a single hula hoop may feel likeThe One, as with any exercise routine, different props are required for different exercises. Weighted hula hoops can feel uncomfortable on sensitive and bony parts of the body such as the hands, arms and legs - if you wish to avoid bruising and discomfort in these areas, dedicate your weighted hoop to your waist hooping. Add a lightweight hula hoop to your collection - what we callfeatherlight polypro - and feel the sweet relief of options!

7. What parts of the body does hula hooping work?

This really depends on how you hoop. If you stand still with the hoop spinning around your waist, without activating and relaxing the rest of your body, you are working the waist in isolation without support or ease. Be careful of hooping in this way - by not activating foundational support, or easing into your workout with your breath, you risk straining your body in many different places. 

By engaging your legs, core muscles and the base of your spine while breathing fully - all of which I highly recommend for safe hooping - you have instantly given yourself a foundation to move freely and safely with your hula hoop. Relax your neck and shoulders while extending through the arms, engage the biceps and triceps and watch your guns grow! When you start to hoop dance in an engaged and supportive way, hooping becomes a full body workout.

Follow these cues to support your body:

  • Connect to the floor evenly with your feet and don't let them rock.
  • Feel the alignment from your feet up through your legs to the base of your spine and all the way up to the top of your head. 
  • Find your neutral spine - not arched, or tucked - lift, lengthen and relax.

  • Feel your legs engage by pressing into the floor with your toes.
  • Relax the belly and let it breathe. 
  • Feel the connection of the base of your spine to your pelvis.

  • Relax your shoulders and neck.
  • Allow your trunk to be relaxed with the support of your legs, feet and aligned posture.
  • Keep your body tall and straight as you hoop - don't bend your body - and breathe!

8. The best exercises for weighted hula hoops + exercises to avoid.

A weighted fitness hoop is an ideal hoop to use on the waist and on the hips. These hoops are the perfect starter hoop, especially if you are carrying extra weight. Hooping on the waist and the hips are two great areas to focus on when you first start out.

I would avoid using weighted hula hoops on your arms and in your hands - they're heavy!

Once you have successfully mastered hooping on your waist and hips, move on to a weighted dance hoop or a weighted polypro hoop to try fun beginner hula hoop tricks in the hands and on the arms. Quite a bit lighter although still weighted, so perfect for slowing the hoop down to learn beginner tricks yet still heavy enough for you to want to move forward with ease and a lighter hoop!

I recommend adding a lightweight polypro hoop to your collection so you can learn hand and arm hooping without getting unnecessary bruises or feeling the discomfort of a weighted hoop on your hands and arms.

9. What’s your single best piece of advice for hoopers to prevent injury or pain?

Add a core conditioning program to your hooping practice such as yoga or pilates. Sometimes, improving your body’s health and longevity is as simple (and complex) as understanding and correcting your posture. Consult a physiotherapist if you have any concerns about the postural condition of your body.

After recently rehabilitating from a severe accident and having my hoop practice wiped out, I enlisted the expert support of my doctor, a physiotherapist, a pilates teacher and several yoga teachers to get me back into my hoop. I am relieved to report that my recovery has been very slow and very steady. Almost there after 4 years of rehabilitation! It's been a long road.

Please consult your medical practitioners before hooping if you are carrying extra weight or have any previous injury or pain.

10. What are the facts and myths about the benefits of hula hooping?

Hooping Facts

Hooping Myths

Fact: Hooping trims the waist

Myth: Hooping gives you a 6 pack

Fact: Hooping burns calories which helps to maintain weight (210 calories per hour)

Myth: Hooping "makes" you lose weight (consider your daily calorie count)

Fact: Hooping alerts you to your core stability

Myth: Hooping increases your core strength (study)

Fact: Hooping helps you lose belly fat

Myth: Hooping strengthens abdominal muscles (study)

Fact: Hooping increases your focus, coordination, stamina + endurance

Myth: Hooping is a kids toy and a fad

Fact: Hooping is the best relaxation therapy

Myth: Hula hoop games are only for kids

Fact: Weighted hula hoops are easier to use

Myth: Weighted hula hoops make you lose weight

Fact: Hooping is FUN!

Myth: Hooping is easier for kids than adults.

As my experience with the hoop expands and deepens, so does my understanding of what hooping has to offer to the body and mind. I’ve come to realise that the road to fitness and weight loss has a blinged up gateway and sitting right there waiting for you is a hula hoop.

Hooping is a portal into fun fitness and creative play. It inspires you to move your body in a way that soon becomes a full body workout. Your practice will necessarily include, sooner or later, a core conditioning program that supports a sustainable hoop practice and a healthy body for longer lasting life. You can DO IT! I promise, you will not look back.

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