The Fun Fitness Benefits of Doing a Hula Hoop Workout
It's likely that the last time you swirled a hula hoop around your hips was on the middle school playground or your backyard when you were like 8 years old. Basically, for most folks, the hula hoop screams #TBT, #90skid, and #nostalgicAF.
But much like the varsity jackets and chunky sneakers of the 90s, the hula hoop is making a comeback — and it's reinventing itself as a sassy piece of fitness equipment. Yes, really! Below, fitness experts explain why everyone should be hula-hooping their hearts out, as well as tips for how to hula hoop for fitness (and fun!).
Yep, Hula Hooping Counts As Exercise
If you're thinking 'is hula hooping good exercise, really?' It is! "Hula hooping absolutely qualifies as exercise," says certified personal trainer Anel Pla with Simplexity Fitness. Research backs it up: One study from the American Council On Exercise found that a 30-minute hula hoop workout has similar fitness perks to other more "obvious" workout techniques including boot camp, kickboxing, or dance cardio class of the same length.
"Part of why it's such a good workout is that hula hooping requires you to be constantly moving," explains Getti Keyahova, hula hoop fitness instructor and Cirque du Soleil alum.
Hula Hoop Benefits That Improve Your Fitness
Hula hoop workouts are an A way to get aerobic exercise, according to Pla. "Hula hooping really gets your heart rate going," she says. This is especially true as you become more skilled with the tool and perhaps use multiple hula hoops at once or try fun tricks such as walking, squatting, dancing, or even jumping during a hula hoop workout. (Don't worry, just swirling one around your waist does the trick!)
Better yet, unlike many other aerobic exercises (running, hiking, dancing, etc), hula hoop workouts are low impact. "Because hula hooping is low impact on the knee and hip joints, it's something people of all ages can enjoy," says Keyahova. (Related: Try This 15-Minute Lower-Body Workout from Kayla Itsines' New Low-Impact Program)
The heart isn't the only muscle recruited during a hula hoop workout, though. "Moving the hula hoop around your body requires your core muscles — especially your obliques — to work," says Pla. Your core is made up of many muscles that run from your pelvis to chest and all away around your torso to keep you upright and stable, she explains.
To keep the hoop circulating around you, hula hoop workouts also activate and strengthen your glutes, hips, quads, hamstrings, and calves, says Pla. And, if you try hula hoop exercises with your arms (it's a thing — this woman can hula hoop with nearly every part of her body) then the tool also works the muscles in your upper body including your traps, triceps, biceps, forearms, and shoulders, she adds. Just consider your hula hoop workout a total-body burner!
While there are many reasons to work out outside of losing weight (endorphins! having fun!), if this is one of your goals, know that hula hoop workouts can also be used to support healthy weight loss. "Hula hooping burns a ton of calories per hour, and achieving a calorie deficit is how one begins to lose weight," explains Pla. (The Mayo Clinic reports that most people can burn anywhere from 330 to 400 calories an hour from hula hoop workouts.)
There's also the fact that playing around with a hula hoop makes for a damn good time! "Hula hooping is fun — almost everybody loves doing it!" says Keyahova. And it goes without saying, but when you enjoy doing a workout, you're more likely to do it and keep doing it, says certified personal trainer Jeanette DePatie, creator and author of The Fat Chick Works Out! and EveryBODY Can Exercise: Senior Edition. "Whereas, if your fitness program is stale or boring or you hate it, you're much more likely to let other stuff get in the way," says DePatie.
How to Ease Into Hula Hoop Workouts
Beyond the fact that it requires lugging around a giant ass hoop — sometimes a weighted hula hoop, generally speaking, hula hoop exercises are pretty low-risk, according to DePatie.
But as with any exercise or fitness modality, attempting a hula hoop workout with poor form, going too fast (or heavy if you're using a weighted hula hoop like this TikToker who claims her's caused a hernia!) for your current fitness level can increase your risk of injury, she explains. For example, if you haven't hula hooped since second grade, and buy a 5-pound hula hoop and go HAM hooping for 60 minutes….it's possible that you'll tweak a core muscle, or even injure your lower back if your core isn't strong enough yet.
Luckily, "most injury risks can be avoided by progressing gradually from a short hula hoop workout to a longer routine" or from a lighter weighted hula hoop to a heavier option, says DePatie. (BTW, this is known as the progressive overload principle — and it applies to all fitness, not just hula hoop workouts.)
To reduce your injury risk start your hula hoop workouts using a 1- to 3-pound hoop, and keep the workout less than 30 minutes in length. Listen to your body, as always. Pain is your body's way of letting you know something isn't right. "If you are in pain, stop," says Pla. "If you are experiencing really intense post-workout muscle soreness, cut back the next time."
How To Incorporate Hula Hooping Into Your Fitness Routine
Ultimately, how you add hula hoop exercises into your workout schedule depends on your fitness goals and lifestyle. If you already have a steady workout routine, Pla suggests using the hula hoop as a tool for your warm-up. "Because it works your glutes, midline, legs, hips, and arms, hula hooping can be used as a full-body warm-up before any workout," she says. In practice, that means instead of rowing 1,000 meters or jogging a mile before you hit the weight room, you can hula hoop at a moderate and steady pace for, say, 4 to 8 minutes.
Hula hoop workouts can also be your entire routine for the day. Don't know where to start? Create a 20- or 30-minute playlist, then try to sync your movements with the hula hoop to the beat, she suggests.
Once you know how to hula hoop like a pro (or okay, adequately enough) Keyahova says you can even try some hula hoop tricks, such as incorporating the device into your current bodyweight workouts. "You can hula hoop while you squat or lunge or do shoulder raises," she says. "Don't be afraid to get creative!"
That said, unless you're also a hula hoop instructor, please err on the side of caution and keep the hula hoop off to the side when you're lifting any weights, please! This baby may go around your waist, but it's no weight belt.
How to Choose the Right Adult Hula Hoop
Keyahova recommends starting with an adult hula hoop that's between 1 and 3 pounds and 38 to 42 inches in diameter. An inch or two off that range is fine, "but anything below 38 inches is going to be a little bit harder to start with because the spin will be faster," she explains.
"If storage and transport are an issue, there are some travel hula hoops that break down into several pieces," adds DePatie. Try Just QT Weighted Hula Hoop (Buy It, $24, amazon.com) or Hoopnotica Travel Hoop (Buy It, $50, amazon.com), and for a weighted hula hoop from Amazon you might go for, Aurox Fitness Exercise Weighted Hoop (Buy It, $19, amazon.com). If you're looking to prevent any soreness on your sides, try this foam-padded hula hoop from Walmart (Buy It, $25, walmart.com), which comes in six different colors.