The new year is not so new anymore and your resolution to get fit may have been derailed by the nonstop snow in Central New York. Well, don’t call it quits yet; there’s an indoor phenomenon that can burn just as many calories as a 30-minute run.
The hula hoop is rolling into living rooms and gyms as the perfect winter weather calorie buster. Twirling the hoop around your middle can burn between 400 and 600 calories in an hour and can be added into your fitness regimen, even at home, with minimal cost. It’s not a new idea: Hula hoops rolled into American pop culture, albeit not as a fitness phenomenon, in the middle of last century.
Hula hooping, named after the Hawaiian hula dance, was made popular in the 1950s. Most baby boomers remember Wham-O, the most successful manufacturer of hoops at that time. The craze consisted of plastic hoops mainly marketed as a toy and requiring a subtle swivel of the hips to gain the desired effect. When hoops re-emerged as a fitness trend in the 21st century, plastic was still in the mix but it wasn’t the only option, and fitness came into focus instead of making the hula hoop all about fun.
First Lady Michelle Obama famously hooped 142 swivels with a plastic toy hula hoop at a Healthy Kids Fair at the White House in October 2009, adding fuel to the fire of the hooping fitness craze. But at the heart of a real hula hoop workout you won’t find the plastic ring of your childhood; instead, you’ll need a specially constructed tube with water inside that can torch calories with every turn.
That’s right, there’s water in there, and it’s filled locally by Dawnmarie Raymond, owner of Go Figure Gym for Women, 3787 Milton Ave., Camillus. Raymond makes her own weighted hula hoops out of irrigation tubing because it stands up to physical activity without bending, breaking or getting kinks. The rubber tubing alone makes a one-pound hoop, and it only gets heavier as Raymond adds water. The average hula hoop she makes checks in at three pounds when she’s done with it, but she adjusts the water and the weight based on the client’s needs and age (kids' hoops clock in at less than one pound including both tubing and water).
Does the weight of water sound too drastic to swing on your hips? Not so, says Raymond. The heavier the hula hoop is, the easier it is to use, she explains. “It moves a little slower so you have more time to make your belly move.” Raymond makes sure that her new hoopers are up to speed on the equipment before they swing out on their own. There isn’t a formal hula hoop class at her gym, but her regular clients are always hooping and they’re in good company; Raymond has sold more than 200 since she launched the hoops in the spring of 2009.
“I haven’t had one person that can’t do it,” claims Raymond. Her hoops cost $25 for adults or $10 for kid-size versions and you can learn about them, and Raymond’s gym, on her new Web site, www.gofiguregym.net.
If you prefer to try out the waist-based action at home before swinging it with the girls at Go Figure, get your playground groove back by following these hula hoop steps outlined by Raymond:
• If you’re right-handed, hoop to the left; if you’re left-handed, hoop to the right.
• Hold the hoop against your back, move one foot in front of the other and swing it out.
• Focus on making the hoop connect with your stomach and then your back.
Any plastic hula hoop you have in the attic or garage can get you in the swing of things, but for a perfect fit, the hoop should reach somewhere between your waist and chest when it's resting vertically on the ground. Wham-O touts three different sizes for their toy, which makes it easier to find a good swirl for your middle.
Once you get spinning, try going the other direction for a challenge. Then take it to the next level and use your hoop for more than just a good twirl. Add arm movements while you hoop, either punching the air or extending your arms and tracing circles while the hoop spins around your waist.
Hula hooping can be a fun alternative to stationary exercise, such as jumping rope, and can lead to a leaner frame and toned core muscles. It’s even been credited as an antidote to tense muscles that have been hunched over a desk or behind the wheel of a car all day.
Whether you’re looking for a fun fitness fix, or want to use the hoop to firm up your middle, hula hooping may be the answer to the winter doldrums of exercise.