I Tried… Hula-Hoop Fitness

By Cat Rodie

Hula-Hoop Fitness
Hula hooping has been around for decades. But while it was simply a cool party trick in the 1950s, it’s recently emerged as a new fitness fad. Our columnist thinks she’ll be a natural…

I’ve got an old sepia-tone photo of my mother skilfully spinning a hula hoop around her waist. She smiles brightly at the camera, creating the illusion that keeping the hoop moving is totally effortless. This is the image I have in my mind when I embark on a week-long hula-hoop challenge. If the ability to hula hoop is genetic, I suspect I’ll be a natural.

Hula-hoop fitness

Hula-hoop fitness is an upbeat new exercise trend that you can either do in a specialty class or in your own home – all you need is a hoop and the willingness to give it a go.

SpinJoy Hoop Dance is an Australian hula-hoop business that offers classes in multiple locations across Sydney. Founder Caitlyn Woods, who’s been hula hooping for five years, tells me it’s a serious work-out.

“It’s great aerobic exercise. It can be high or low impact, and it can be modified for all fitness levels. Hooping will increase your core strength, and also improve stability, coordination and balance,” Woods explains.

After watching a couple of instructional videos online, I decide that I’m ready. I take my new hoop into the backyard and hold it around my torso, and then I spin the hoop and start rocking my hips side to side. It takes approximately two seconds for the hoop to fall to the ground. I try again. And again. After ten minutes I am puffed out. I might not be able to keep the hoop spinning, but I’m definitely getting a work-out.

Woods tells me that it can take a while to get the hang of it. “Be patient – it can take time to learn a new skill,” she says. “Crank up the music and just enjoy it.” I persevere – hitting the hoop a couple of times a day. My progress is slow – but noticeable. By the end of the week I can keep the hoop spinning for at least 10 seconds.

Although I’m not a natural, my time with the hoop has been lots of fun – and as psychologist Dr Marny Lishman notes, that’s of benefit in itself. “Engaging in playful, fun activities sets off a whole array of positive benefits for the brain and body,” she says. “Concentrating on the hoop is a great everyday mindfulness activity. You’ll reduce stress and you will probably find yourself laughing, whether you’re alone or with friends.”

Dr Lishman also tells me that having fun is a really good way to stay motivated. Bernadette Smith, a hoop fitness instructor at In2Hula in Christchurch, NZ, is an excellent role model for this. She started hooping 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back. “I wasn’t a hooper as a child. I started at 49 and now I can’t put it down!” she says with a grin.

Smith’s enthusiasm for the hoop is infectious – but unfortunately for me, her hooping skills are not. But although I haven’t got the hang of it yet, I am strangely addicted to the thrill of giving it a go.

And perhaps hooping ability is genetic after all – it turns out that my nine-year-old daughter, Grace, can hoop like a pro. Maybe it just skipped a generation…


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