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Natural Awakenings

Retro Fit: Hula hoops are back and putting a new spin on fitness.

Feb 01, 2007 03:35PM ● By Paula Felps

Modern fitness has gone old school. Or, perhaps more accurately, old schoolyard. One of today’s hottest trends borrows heavily from the past, taking the lightweight hula hoop and transforming it into a fitness tool.

“It’s not intimidating at all; in fact, it’s a very approachable fitness method,” says Christabel Zamor, better known to fitness fans as HoopGirl. “It relieves stress, builds core strength and is great for the libido.” Yep, this is the way to slim down and get your groove back all at the same time.

“When you’re hula hooping, you’re swaying the body in a flowing, powerful way,” she explains. “It makes you feel more radiant and positive. And because of the way you’re moving your body, it makes you feel more sexy.”

If the approach to hula hooping has changed, so has the hoop itself. Today’s fitness hoops are larger so that they’ll rotate more slowly around the body; they also are weighted and have friction tape or a sticky foam to make them cling to the body instead of sliding down around the user’s ankles.

“Even people who couldn’t hoop as children will find that they can do this,” Christabel says. “It’s really enjoyable and a lot of people who start it become obsessed with it—in a healthy way!”

The resurgence in the hula hoop craze can be traced back to around 1998, when the newer, heavier, adult-oriented hoops started showing up at music festivals in Colorado and along the West Coast. Within five years, they started showing up in gyms and being offered in classes. It’s more than standing in a room swinging a ring of weighted plastic around your hips; the hoop also travels the arms, legs and torsos and may include jumps and tosses. It’s great for the abs, but the rest of the body benefits as well.

Betty Hoops, one of the pioneers of the movement, has watched it grow from a fad into a bona fide movement.

“A lot of people [start doing it] for weight loss, but what they find is that they feel sexier and have more energy,” she says. “It’s similar to Pilates in that it works the core muscles of the body, but it’s a lot more fun. There’s something about it that is very hypnotic, very exciting.”

Anyone who questions its fitness quotient need only try it for five minutes to realize how effective it is. In addition to building core muscle strength, it offers a hearty cardio workout; Betty also touts such benefits as flexibility and coordination. According to the Cooper Institute, a minute of hooping burns as many calories as running or high-impact aerobics. And those who fall in love with the activity claim it’s a lot more fun.

“The learning curve is very quick,” Betty says. “Maintaining a program is only going to happen if you’re inspired. This is the kind of workout that inspires people.”


Ready to give it a try ? There are several ways to do that, and you can either take a class or practice it in the privacy of your own home. Fitness centers nationwide now recognize hula hooping as a viable form of exercise and offer classes. You can find a list of participating fitness centers online at

Or, if you’d like to try it at home, move the furniture out of the way and grab a hoop and a DVD. (Remember, you’ll want to buy a fitness hoop, not a child’s lightweight plastic hoop.)

Betty Hoops’ Collapsible Hoop and DVD Kit ($39.98) is a great starter kit that includes an adjustable foam-covered hoop that can be taken apart for storage or travel. The 40-minute Dance Hoop DVD gives you all the basic moves, then Betty walks you through a cardio workout set to music. Look for it online at or

Hoopdance for Beginners ($24.99) is a fun, sexy workout with moves from The HoopGirl Workout. During this 80-minute disc, you’ll learn 35 moves and four dance combinations taught by HoopGirl herself. You can also buy one of her eye-catching custom-made hoops in sizes made for kids to adults ($12-$36) online at

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