Can Hula-Hoops Strengthen the Core?

by Joe Lawrence | March 31st, 2014 | Core, Strength Training

hula hoop (400x400)I have heard this notion gaining some steam this year and recently my wife bought a weighted Hula-Hoop. Being the skeptic I am about faddish workouts and diets, I decided to do a little research. I mean, there are even fitness classes and workout videos centered around the Hula-Hoop. Can Hula-Hooping actually strengthen the core?

And the short answer: yes.

The long answer:

The claim is that Hula-Hooping 10 minutes a day for a month can shed two inches off of the waist. On the surface it makes sense, but sounds too easy to me. However, there are sound principles backing up the claim. First of all, the muscles worked make up the bulk of the core. Research has shown that Hula-Hooping builds the rectus abdominus muscles (those that give you the “six pack” look), the internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominus which is a major core stability muscle. These four muscle groups make up the bulk of the core and the motions required to keep the Hula-Hoop going works these extensively.

A study completed at the University of Wisconsin revealed there are some impressive results with this exercise. For starters, the motions burn seven calories per minute on average and some of the fad workout creators even claim that weighted Hula-Hoops can burn 10 calories per minute. The American Council on Exercise backed up the claim by stating 210 calories can be burned every 30 minutes (7 calories per minute). That is more than basic weightlifting, Tai Chi, walking, and even doing the foxtrot according to the Harvard Health Letter.

The University of Wisconsin study even classified Hula-Hooping as a high-intensity cardiovascular workout similar to step aerobics. This was a result of the study participants averaging 151 heart beats per minute! Most participants were within the target heart rate range for the workout.

Many celebrities like Beyonce, Marisa Tomei, and the First Lady all boast the benefits of Hula-Hooping. However, what did I experience? Secretly, when no one was looking, I tried the three pound Hula-Hoop my wife bought. I apparently have no rhythm and had a hard time keeping it going at first. In fact, as much as I had to keep bending over to pick it up was a workout in itself. When I did keep it going for a spell, I was able to feel the muscles being worked. My wife has been at it for about a week and her stamina for the exercise has already increased.

Overall, the Hula-Hoop appears to be a great addition for a solid core workout. Starting with two minutes a day and increasing by a minute per week or every two weeks, will burn some serious calories and tone the muscles that we all try to target with various ab exercises.

(Photo courtesy of Pete Souza , via Wikimedia Commons)

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.