6 Fun-Filled Hula Hoop Exercises for Better Fitness

By , SparkPeople Blogger
In 1958 WHAM-O introduced the world to a new toy after Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr observed children in Australia playing with bamboo hoops in their exercise class. Upon their return to the States, they took what they had seen and invented the plastic hoop, what we now know as the Hula Hoop. What started out as a fad in the late 1950's for kids has now turned into a fitness frenzy 53 years later. And if you don't believe swirling your hips can burn calories and tone your body, think again.

Researchers at the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse led by Jordan Holthusen, M.S. and John Porcari, Ph.D. conducted a study of 16 advanced to intermediate female hoopers. To their amazement, hula hooping expended similar calorie rates and raised heart rates similar to cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and boot camp classes. Although the researchers state that more studies need to be done to determine what the long-term fitness benefits to hooping will bring, one thing is for certain, when we have fun doing an activity we are more likely to participate in it. I always say something always trumps nothing, especially when it comes to exercise.

Today, some fitness experts have taken hula hooping one step further by combining hooping and Pilates. Kristin Benton, founder of the hula-hoop based FXP Fitness, recognized the amazing benefits of incorporating this kid-approved piece of equipment into exercise after losing 40 pounds with a regular hooping routine. 

Below are a few tips on choosing the right hoop for you.
  • Choose the right size for you: Small, lightweight hoops in the kid's section are exactly for that—kids! Make sure that when you place the hoop on the ground standing up that the hoop falls between your waist and your chest. Purchasing a smaller hoop will make hooping a little more challenging.
  • Weighted Hoops: Just as a larger circumference hoop will be easier to use, the same is true for a weighted hoop. You want to use a weight that offers a challenge without being so heavy that it causes bruising. The recommended weight is right around two pounds.
  • If you have a history of back problems, hula hooping may not be for you. Always check with a physician before starting a new fitness program.

6 Ways to Hoop Your Way to Healthy

Abs, Thighs, Arms and Shoulders: Sumo Squats

Abdominals: Teaser Prep

Arms and Abs: Zip It Up

Legs, Abs and Cardio: Waist Hooping

Abdominals: Wring It Out

Abs, Thighs and Glutes: Wide Second Plie

To watch the complete workout, visit Benton's SparkPeople YouTube playlist directly. 

Have you ever worked out with a hula hoop? Share your experience below!

Updated 8/1/2017

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Love my hula hoop! If you're looking, Amazon has them in several different weights, sizes, colors, etc! Just know, if you're just starting it might hurt your middle a bit, but nothing serious. Just keep it up, you'll be amazed how quickly you get used to doing it:) Report
fun way to workout! Report
Great article....now I want to go get a weighted hula hoop to have fun with. Report
Fun! Report
One of my ongoing thought processes about hooping is remembering how hard it is to hoop when all I have had access to was the kid sized versions. I couldn't even do it when I was a kid in the 60's, but likely didn't have access to proper instructions or information not being able to hear as a kid. Now I look at it and I'm reluctant to buy/invest in the taller weighted hoops that apparently have to be customized? Or purchase from specialty retailers? So then I go around and around in that and getting tangled in my mind, and figure that's enough @hoopijf@ for the day! Maybe someday I can find a real business locally who can set me straight without having to spend the money up front. Report
I do love my Hula Hoop! Report
I didn't realize that I'd miss my hula hoop! Report
I don't think this one is for me, but thanks anyway! :) Report
I love to hula hoop. I did have a weight hula hoop, but loaned it to a friend and did not get it back. Report
I wish I was able to keep a hula hoop going! Report
Who would have thought the hula-hoop could be used for getting into shape.
Not me. Report
I bought a weighted hoop from Aldi's a couple of months ago. I really enjoy using it. Report
I may try the torso twists on my bed. cannot get on floor. Report
Something fun you could do on the beach. Report
Links now seem to be working, a few moves for me to try Report
None of the links work. How disappointing! Report
I own a hula hoop I had for years and I just started incorporating the hula hoop exercise into my fitness routine. Report
The links no longer work Report
I just started hooping in a class before Christmas and then had a knee replacement... right now hooping does not work but I can't wait to be fully recovered. My whole family loves it. There are instructions on line for how to make one using PVC plumbing hose and a connector and tape.... but we had our teacher make ours so they look fantastic. You need surprisingly little room to hoop and I can't wait to take it to the cottage. Report
nor can I find the exercises on the shape site. I'm still working at keeping the thing up, in both directions. But now feel inspired to go downstairs where I have more space and try something more Report
I can't find the exercises on the Shape site that the links send me to. Report
I cannot find the workouts on Shape's website. Could you help me? I know the article is old, but would love to check out the actual workouts for the different areas!! Thanks! Report
we were given hula hoops at the end of our weekly diabetic session. I haven't used it yet but will try some of these exercises Report
HoopDancing is an incredible workout. It combines endurance, kinesthetic awareness, and creativity. I came into it at a transitional time in my 25+ years of teaching fitness. The trend was moving towards intensity and impact, and my then 45-year-old body said 'no thank you'. Hooping is terrific for firing up the core and improving posture. There will be times early on when the body is figuring out what you want it to do. I call this Permission to Flail (or the French word 'Pertoflai' :-D) Keep going. Take classes if you are able. Pick up Hoopnoticas DVDs (they are terrific) - Push back the furniture and get on with it. Have Fun. Report
Getting ready to order mine from www.hoopnotica.com ! They have a great deal on a starter kit with an instructional video. Important for folks to know that the fitness hoops are not the same as the toy ones for kids in the store AND you need to get the right size one based upon your height. It should come at least to your navel or a couple of inches above the navel when you hold it up against you in a standing position. Report
I've been taking a HoopFusion class for about a year! Great music and routines choreographed by our instructor. The other ladies in the class make it SO much fun! Report
I saw an exercise hoop and bought one since I liked to hula hoop as a child. Seems like a fun exercise-could use it to some rollicking music (thinking disco-type) and the exercise ideas will expand the hoop's uses. Thanks!! Report
I love my hula hoop I work out 30 minute 5 day a weeks.I lose 1inch from my waist Report
I am going to get me one and start using it. I use to have one but grandkids broke it. Report
Trying mine today for the first time! Report
I bought a hula hoop from the Internet but I still have to put it together. I am looking forward to add it to my exercises. Report
Sounds great, but I got a pacemaker in October, is it ok to do these exercises now? Report
I was thinking of trying hooping but have had 2 back surgeries. Maybe I shouldn't do this. Report
Oh, this sounds fun and if it's fun I will want to do it! Report
I am so happy to see that hula hooping actually burns calories! I have been doing this for a long time and wasn't sure if it was working. Seems to really work my abs though. Oh man I can't wait to go home and do this! Thanks Marisa Tomei for being a great role model and showing us some awesome exercises! Report
I have a hoop, but I've never been able to get it to spin successfully. I'm not giving up! It looks like so much fun! Report
looks like fun-I'll have to get one & try to do it!
I plan on trying this soon!! Report
I bought a 3lb. weighed hoop. I loved it! It was so much fun and the weight made it easier to turn, too. Unfortunately, an they warn you about this on the package, I developed a huge, painful bruise on my hip bone, which put an end to my hooping aspirations. I returned it to the store but I plan on getting a lighter one. It was too much fun to give up on! Report
I use to love to hula-hoop. My mom did it with my sister and I. Later down the road, I would hula-hoop with my children. It was good exercise! I recently bought one and have started it again. I am not as good as I use to be. Practice! Practice! Report
Hula hooping has always been something I enjoyed, so this sounds like a great idea for me! Report
I used to love hula hooping when I was a child. The last time I tried, I think I had too much hula to hoop. Think I might give it another try!!! Great article!!! Report
Yes I would try some of those exercises. I bought a hula hoop shortly after seeing Marisa Tomei hula on the Ellen DeGeneres show a while back. I quickly realized that hula hooping wasnt as easy as it used to be, lol! I purchased the Shape Magazine that showed her workout a short time later but I have yet to try those moves. Report
Thanks for sharing this! You inspired me to pull out my Gaiam weighted hula hoop. (It was sort of hidden behind a cabinet since a move.) What a fun way to take a study break, hooping to favorite tunes! Report
I loved to as a kid......exercise can be fun! Report
I loved to as a kid......exercise can be fun! Report
I loved hula hooping as a child and think I'll take it up again. I'm inspired by everyone's comments. Report
In order to have something to use inside for rainy days, I purchased a "jointed" adult hoop from Target that you put together. It took a couple weeks to get used to. I finally got it to stay up and was feeling quite proud of myself when....
Fa-Woom, the hoop flew off. It broke completely in half beside one of the joints. I plan on putting some ducktape on it. The jointed ones do not seem to be very durable, but I did get a good laugh out of it. Report