Hula hooping is no longer just a middle-school recess activity. In the age of video-sharing apps, hula hoopers have repeatedly gone viral, with the hashtag #hulahooping garnering more than 68 million views on TikTok alone. But while hula hooping can be mesmerizing to watch, it's also an effective workout. Hula hooping is a form of low-intensity, steady-state (LISS) cardio (yep, even though you're technically standing still), and the addition of a weighted hula hoop can increase resistance, making your muscles work even harder for the duration of your workout.
If you're bored with your everyday gym routine, you may just want to give hula hooping a shot. POPSUGAR asked hoop instructors and trainers to break down the benefits of hula hooping (including with a weighted hoop) and provide a few tips for getting started.
Why Is Hula Hooping a Good Workout?
Sure, hula hooping is fun — but if you haven't done it since you were a kid, you may forget just how challenging it can actually be. Here, experts break down the benefits of this childhood pastime.
1. It builds core and lower-body strength.
The movement may feel simple enough, but anytime you use a hula hoop, you're targeting your core muscles, especially your obliques, Cassie Piasecki, a certified Pilates teacher and group fitness instructor at FightCamp, tells POPSUGAR.
The practice of hula hooping also strengthens the lower body. When you hula hoop, you stand with your legs wider than your hips, with your knees slightly bent, then continuously shift back and forth to keep the hoop in motion. In maintaining this stability and rhythm, you're engaging your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles, Piasecki explains. In fact, this stance is very similar to that of higher-intensity workouts like kickboxing.
2. It burns calories and builds endurance.
If you're looking to burn some extra calories, hula hooping is a great place to start. In just a half hour of hula hooping, it's possible to burn around 200 calories, according to John Gardner, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Kickoff.
LISS workouts like hula hooping also help to build cardiovascular endurance. Unlike sprints, for example, hula hooping allows you to exercise for a longer duration with less recovery time, Piasecki says. "Turn on a killer playlist, work up to a 30-minute session, and you'll be sweating."
3. It improves balance and coordination.
Hula hooping requires you to shift your weight back and forth with each circular motion, ultimately improving coordination and balance, Piasecki explains. With weighted hula hoops especially, you should notice an improvement in these areas after continued use. While a weighted hoop may not seem very heavy, at just a few pounds, it can easily throw off your balance as you work to keep the hoop up on your hips. You might start with a lighter hoop to reduce your risk of injury (and bruising, which isn't uncommon), then level up as you get stronger.
What Are the Benefits of Weighted Hula Hoops, and Do They Actually Work?
You're bound to benefit from hula hooping as long as you're working out consistently, but you may find that a weighted hula hoop is even more effective. "The added weight and resistance of a weighted hoop requires the core and legs to work harder to keep the hoop in motion," Piasecki says, resulting in a better full-body workout.
Interestingly, weighted hula hoops ultimately require less energy than lighter hoops, which Piasecki says is a good thing. "Once you have the strength to keep it circling, it is easier to keep circling for a longer period than regular hoops," allowing you to work out for longer, she explains. "Keep the traditional hula hoops for the summer BBQs, and get a weighted hula hoop for your home gym."
How to Use a Weighted Hula Hoop
While you may have some muscle memory from the playground, you'll want to read these tips from hula-hoop instructors before making a weighted hula hoop part of your workout routine.
1. Take some basic precautions.
While weighted hula hoops are popular for their core benefits, it's important to be aware of their potential harms before picking up this practice. "Bruising is to be expected when you start hooping, but if a hula hoop is too heavy, it can cause severe bruising and even injury to the internal organs in some cases," Taira Stuck, hula-hoop instructor and founder of Hooping Heals, tells POPSUGAR. To avoid this, Stuck recommends using hula hoops that are no heavier than two pounds. If you do bruise, take a break for a few days to allow the spot to heal. While initial bruising is almost inevitable, it will lessen as your muscles and tissue become stronger, Stuck says.
Once you find the hoop that works for you, be sure to dress comfortably for your workout. "Avoid wearing ill-fitting or restrictive clothing, or anything that is too slippery, like polyester or spandex, as it can cause the hoop to fall off your body," Stuck explains. For your comfort and safety, opt out of unsupportive shoes like sandals or flip-flops and choose sneakers instead.
2. Always warm up.
Like any other workout, a good warmup is essential when hula hooping. Hula-hoop instructor Bee Varga recommends gently stretching your muscles before you even pick up your hoop. Once you get started, be careful not to push yourself too hard in the first few minutes. Your hula hoop may drop or slide all over the place, and that's OK, she says — just relax into it.
3. Find your form.
Hooping is very intuitive, but good form is still essential to getting a good workout and preventing injury. Start by testing this basic positioning: stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly forward if that feels right for your body, Stuck says. With a slight bend in your knees and a strong core, line up the hoop on the small of your back and give a push toward your belly button, she explains. The movement in your hips should be a back and forth motion, not a circular one. If the hoop starts to fall, speed up, be patient, and eventually it will click.
If you feel comfortable keeping your hoop in motion and want to take it up a notch, try changing your stance, direction, or speed to add variety to your workout, Stuck says. She recommends putting your feet together and stabilizing your core for an extra burn.
4. Stick with it.
Treat hula hooping like you would any other exercise. Set aside time each week to commit to a schedule. Find an instructor or friend to hold you accountable. And if you find yourself feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, stop and try something else, Stuck says. Most importantly: don't give up.
Varga recommends using your hula hoop for about 15 minutes per day to start. Once that feels easy, you can slowly build up to 45 minutes, incorporating hooping anywhere you would normally do cardio as part of your routine. While fitness is primarily what draws people to hula hooping, Stuck says that is only the tip of the iceberg. "Sometimes we just need a hoop dance party in the backyard. Sometimes we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious and just need a productive way to move through tough emotions," she says. "Hooping is a complete reset."