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Go Hoop Hoop hoorah this summer!

Go Hoop Hoop hoorah this summer!

Forget boring high-intensity workouts involving pedalling and running on the spot. Instead, grab a hula hoop and enjoy a quick and effective workout to get you in the mood and into fantastic shape for summer.

Hula hooping is becoming very popular all over the world. Classes are springing up everywhere, from independent  hooping workshops to national gym chains such as Gymbox and Virgin Active offering ‘Hulaerobics’ classes. Most will let you try it out without buying a hoop first.

Hooping is also a popular form of exercise for celebrities. Beyonce’s incredible figure can be put down partly to her commitment to hula hooping. Other fans include Kelly Osbourne, and Michelle Obama has been photographed hula hooping with her children on the Whitehouse lawn.

Even though you may not have tried to hula hoop since you were a child, it’s fairly easy to learn. The hoops are bigger and sturdier than the plastic ones for children, fall down less and some are even weighted for extra intensity. Hula hooping involves such a gentle basic movement that almost anyone can do it – from children and pensioners to pregnant women. The workout craze has even spread to secondary school PE lessons.

And before you men skulk off thinking this is an exercise just for girls, think again. Many classes are aimed at men and women, and there have been several male World Hula Champions. Go on, take the challenge!

Benefits of hooping

If you have fat to shift around your waistline hula hooping is one of the best exercises you can do. Earlier this year Kellie Osbourne claimed that just 10 minutes of hooping each day  - 5 minutes morning and evening - shaved 2 inches off her waistline. The very precise, intense movements also give a great workout to 30 other muscles including the abs, back arms and leg muscles.  . Hula hooping also helps posture by promoting good body alignment, so if you’re a sloucher, grab a hoop.

Hula hooping is also great for weightloss.  Just 10 minutes of hooping can burn 100 calories and you can do it while watching TV and chatting , making it the perfect multi-tasking exercise for busy people. The key to the workout intensity  is in the size of the hoop – the larger and heavier the more effective it is.

Mental benefits

Focussing on the rotating movement stimulates the brain and helps to improve coordination and concentration. The repetitive spinning around the core and back has also been shown to be highly relaxing, lowering stress levels and inducing almost a meditative effect.

It’s also a great way to have fun with your kids, and get them to join in too – though choose your space carefully if you all do it together! If you’re still unconvinced, look at the face of someone using a hula hoop –notice the slight smile on the face and that’s the answer you need.

Any downsides?

Hula hooping requires patience at the beginning. It can take time to develop the coordination and balance but once you’ve mastered it you will progress quickly. Some people also experience slight pain as the hoop catches on the hipbone but this is just because the hoop needs to be up around the waist.

 Luckily this is an exercise you can easily practice in the privacy of your own home until you gain confidence . Home practice also helps to overcome the embarrassment factor which can affect some people at classes as they drop the hoop and gyrate their hips wildly with strangers.

How to get started

The ideal hoop is one which can reach at least to your bellybutton from the floor and no higher than your chest. Larger hoops move more slowly so some people find them easier to begin with, however smaller hoops are easier for tricks. Purchase one which is best for your height and weight (most reputable retailers will have a guide), consider one which unclips if you want to travel with it, and expect to pay upwards from £18 for a decent one.

Although no special clothing is required, you should avoid wearing anything baggy. Tight clothes which fit smoothly around the waistline will help keep the hoop up around the waist. You can go barefoot if you like but you might change your mind if a heavy hoop lands on your toes!

When you hoopla  you should focus on keeping your body as straight as possible. Then start to spin the hoop around your waist counterclockwise which seems easier for most people. Gyrate your hips to keep the hoop spinning just above your waistline and hopefully you will soon be running circles around everyone.

For more tips or to check out a class you can upload hula hoop videos online or purchase a DVD.  Alternatively or just go along to a class. However you learn, with regular practice those skimpier summer clothes will soon be revealing a body to be proud of this summer.