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Hula Hooping For Health

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At a recent weekend women’s retreat, I benefitted from some fabulous seminars, great conversations, a fantastic yoga dance class and a three-mile hike, but I had the most fun from something I haven’t tried since I was a kid: I hula-hooped.

A silver-haired friend of mine gave a workshop on hula-hooping to attendees as a way to improve our fitness, balance and even spirituality (from the shrieks of laughter from the participants it was evident spirits were getting raised all around.)

The instructor was as lithe and graceful as molten quicksilver and others of us, more rusty than that, did a lot of hoop dropping at first, but even I (a notorious klutz) finally got the hang of it and, once I was told a half-an-hour session of hula hooping can burn 300 calories, I was hooked.

Here’s how to get started twirling your troubles (and belly fat) away:

First get an adult hoop (heavier than the one you had as a kid) that is 40 inches in diameter and weighs up to two pounds. You may also want to get smaller hoops for use in arm and leg exercises. You can find hoops online at such sites as RadiantHoops and Hoopnotica. Do all the exercises below for one minute or so and then rest a few seconds before you go to the next one (you don’t want to cramp up.) Go through the whole routine at least twice.

  • The Classic: With the hoop around your waist and your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, give the hoop a spin with your hands to get it going. Sway your hips side-to-side (as though you were hitting imaginary walls on either side) and feel the rhythm. Don’t get frustrated. You will get the hang of it. If you feel the hoop beginning to drop, stand up straighter and push the front of your hip into the hoop as it comes around.
  • The Back and Forth: Put one foot forward with a hoop at your waist level. Start the hoop spinning off your hip and rock your hips forward and back to keep it going. Don’t lock your knees and exaggerate the forward move if the hoop starts to fall.
  • The Satellite: Squeeze your legs together (again, don’t lock your knees) and hold the hoop at your waist. Make your back flat and lean forward. Give the hoop a spin so it starts rotating and keep it spinning by lifting and lowering your body (by bending and straightening your knees.) The hoop should stay perpendicular to the floor. Keep your weight off your heels and onto your toes and keep your tummy tight.  (If you only do this one for 30 seconds, I’ll understand.)
  • Arm Yourself: Use a smaller hoop to spin round your wrist, forearm and uppper arm (you will smack yourself in the face a few times till you get the hang of this.) Or use a bigger hoop and, with your feet together, hold the hoop straight out in front and start it in motion so the hoop is spinning round your hand. You can move your arm up and down to keep it going. Raise your arm over your head while keeping the hoop moving (it will roll over your thumb and into your palm.) All of this is a great exercise for those flabby arms. (You surely have heard all the talk about Michelle Obama’s well-toned “guns”. No surprise, The First Lady is a dedicated hula hooper.)

There are many advanced techniques like walking with the hoop, jump roping through the hoop, figure eights and leg routines—all of which may be seen on DVD’s like Hoopnotica Fitness Hoopdance Hula Hoop DVDs, The Hoop Dance Workout and working your way up to Hoop-La!: The Ultimate Book of Hula Hoop Tricks by Kari James and Jamie Bennettor (all available on Amazon) or you can just amp up the joy you feel by relieving this great part of your childhood and take your hoop out and just dance with it. Remember to laugh while you do it—then you stretch not only your muscles, but also your soul.

Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (, is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.


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