It may have been decades – perhaps even nearly half a century – since you last picked up a hula hoop but, like other childhood activities such as skipping rope, hula-hooping has some amazing hidden benefits. For example, the American Council for Exercise found it burned 400 calories per hour – add in arms and leg movements, and that figure can reach as high as 600 per hour.
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The health and wellbeing benefits of hula hooping
It’s not just about the calorie burn, though, hula hooping is also a great way to work those important core muscles in your back and stomach, which give you great posture, not to mention helping you avoid back pain and injury.
Research from the University of Waterloo Spine Biomechanics Laboratory, Canada, also shows that hula hooping burns visceral fat, exactly the type of fat you want to target as it raises your risk of heart disease and is more difficult to shed as you get older. Need to know more? Well, it also improves coordination and makes you feel good. Hula = happy!
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How to choose your hula hoop
Want to give it a try? First, make sure you’ve got the right equipment. Do not use a child’s hula hoop! You need a hoop that reaches your waist when you stand it next to your body. If you use a smaller one, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to keep it spinning. Once you’ve got the hang of the following moves with a standard hula hoop, you can also look at getting a weighted hoop which taxes your body more giving you an even more thorough workout.
Back and forth spin
Put one foot in front of the other, keep your knees bent and your arms up and out to the sides, and, holding the hoop against your back spin it (clockwise or anticlockwise, whichever feels right to you). Now as the hoop spins, shift your weight from one foot to the other so that your stomach area ‘pushes’ into the hoop, then put the weight onto your back foot when the hoop touches your back, pushing back again. That’s it! By pushing with the front and back of your body you keep the spinning motion going. If it falls, don’t worry, just pick it up and try again.
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With your feet a little wider than hip width apart, start the hoop spinning. With this move you want to edge up against the hoop with your hips, just as you would if you were pushing a door open when your hands are full.
Bend your knees, and with a straight back, lean forward. Start the hoop spinning and then keep it there, while keeping your knees bent, then straightening them (and going up onto your toes). Keep this motion going for an excellent abs workout.
If you want to work on that underarm fat, grab your hoop with one hand, holding it against the other wrist at the same time. Now start the hoop spinning on your wrist, keep the motion going as you slowly raise your arm above your head. Once there try to keep it going for a minute or so then rest.
Really want to up the ante? Try spinning your hula hoop while doing slow squats. Get your hoop spinning in a side-to-side spin stance but with your toes point outwards, then once your hoop is spinning, slowly bend your knees so that your upper legs are parallel to the floor and back up again.
To find out how one man de-stressed his life - by learning how to hula hoop - see the January issue of Saga Magazine.
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