The Health Benefits of Hula-Hooping – The Honest Truth

Right, this is going to be a fairly lengthy one, but bear with it because I think there are some important points here!

I posted the other day about how I’m going to try hula-hooping for at least 10 minutes a day to see if I can reduce my waist circumference, so I thought it might be useful to explain a little about how its supposed to work.

Hula-hooping, also called powerhooping, is a relatively new health craze, but it’s one that might well stick around. Instead of using the light, plastic hoops you might remember from primary school PE lessons, powerhooping uses a weighted hoop. This makes them much easier to use, because the weight, combined with a large diameter, allow for a slower, more controlled movement. Because it’s more controlled, you’re also less likely to drop the hoop and interrupt your workout quite as much as you might do otherwise.

How To Hula-Hoop

The official powerhoop website has a step-by-step guide on how to powerhoop, which I’ve copied below:

Getting started:

  1. Hold the Powerhoop level with both hands, keeping two links pressed up against your lower back. Place your feet hip-distance apart and step forward with one foot, about 10 cm (four inches). Stand up straight and soften your knees slightly so your body feels stable, balanced and relaxed.
  2. Still standing up straight and keeping the hoop level, feed the Powerhoop across the abdominal muscles in the same direction as your forward foot. Speed is important so give it a good push. Move your hips forward and back (not side-to-side) to keep the Powerhoop spinning. Tighten your abs and “push” against the impact of the Powerhoop with your tummy.
  3. Stop your Powerhoop, switch the position of your feet, and hoop in the opposite direction. That may seem difficult at first, but for balanced training it’s very important to use your hoop for equal time in both directions. Hooping builds abdominal muscle quickly; if you don’t hoop both ways you might actually notice that you have become firmer and slimmer on one side of your body!

Anybody can give powerhooping a go (even you guys!) although people who have smaller hips may find it a little more difficult to get the hang of it. It’s definitely worth trying though.

Research Study 1

A study conducted by McGill, Cambridge and Andersen (2015) assessed the impact of using a weighted hoop for six weeks on body size, weight, muscular endurance and skinfolds (yum). Unfortunately the full article is off-limits without paying for it, but the abstract (summary) is available from the above link. The researchers found that at the end of the six-week period, there was

  • a significant decrease of waist circumference (3.4cm on average) and hip circumference (1.4cm on average)
  • a reduction in waist-to-hip ratio, from 89.3 to 87.3cm. This means that the participants had a more hourglass figure at the end of the study, which is supposedly a healthy body shape to have as it means there is less visceral fat (the dangerous kind!).
  • no evidence of an improvement in muscular endurance. This suggests that it may not give you stronger abdominal muscles, but if you’re only after weight loss, then that doesn’t matter so much.

Despite the lack of improvement in muscle endurance, this study suggests that just 6 weeks of powerhooping can lead to a significant decrease in body size, which means powerhooping might be an excellent summer workout.

This was not the only study conducted on powerhooping. The second is only available (as far as I can tell) on the powerhoop website, so I’m not entirely convinced about how impartial it is, but nevertheless I’ll tell you what they did.

Research Study 2

The study was conducted at the University of Waterloo’s Spine Biomechanics Laboratory in Canada. 14 mildly overweight women were asked to powerhoop for 15 minutes per day, for 5 days a week over a 6 week period. Before and after the six week period body composition measurements were taken, and pre-to-post comparisons were completed. They found that:

  • There was a significant reduction in waist circumference, at 3.35cm on average
  • There was a smaller reduction in hip circumference, but a reduction nonetheless
  • There was a reduction in the waist-to-hip, meaning a more hourglass figure was achieved.
  • 15 minutes of powerhooping led to a varied calorie burn of 75 to 105 calories depending on experience. Those who were more unexperienced burned more calories, probably because they were using body parts and moving in a way they were not used to, so it took more effort.
  • Compared to a lightweight plastic hula-hoop, the powerhoop led to much greater muscle activation. The main part of the abdominals, known as the rectus abdominus, increased muscle endurance by 70% when using the powerhoop compared to the standard hoop. When you compare this to the results from the other study, there is a bit of contradictory evidence. What they don’t state in this second study, however, is whether the results were statistically significant (in other words, meaningful). Nevertheless, in my book, any muscular improvements are good, so this isn’t necessarily a negative.
  • There was actually an increase in subcutaneous fat (fat underneath the skin), which may sound a bit gross and the complete opposite of what you want, but WAIT.

There was a decrease in stomach fat, meaning that it was likely that all the dangerous visceral fat was redistributed around the body. They claim that this might be due to the weighted hoop ‘massaging’ away the fat from the stomach. Visceral fat is notoriously difficult to burn, so being able to move it elsewhere will make it much easier to get rid of completely.

My Conclusions

What this suggests to me is that powerhooping can prime your body to be in a much better fat-burning state than it was previously. So, although powerhooping might not actually burn fat, it moves fat to a much healthier place, improves your body composition, might slightly increase muscle endurance, and it does all this in just 15 minutes a session!

Clearly this evidence shows that powerhooping is effective at improving body composition, but there are also some major flaws in the research. For a start, 14 participants is a very small sample size. Secondly, I have strong suspicions that the second study was funded in some way by the powerhoop guys, so it may well be quite biased. Thirdly, these are the only two studies I can find about powerhooping, so the evidence base is very small.

Depsite these problems, I’m still optimistic that powerhooping is a good way to improve body shape, create a healthier body composition and feel healthier. It’s also really fun and it can be done anywhere that has space. The powerhoops can be dissembled into easily transportable parts, so if you happen to spend half your time in place and half in another you can still do your exercise. One thing I would say is that I don’t imagine you need to buy an official powerhoop hoop – I got a weighted hoop from T K Maxx and it works really well!

I’m going to continue trying to do 10 minutes a day (each way, so 20 minutes in total!) to see if I can notice a difference. My stomach is my most hated area (closely followed by my upper arms), and I don’t think I’ll ever have a flat stomach, but if this helps even a little I’ll be happy.

I’m gonna keep you updated on my progress, and I really want to hear from you guys if you decide to take it up too. Also, let me know what you think of this research, and if you come across anything else I’d love to take a look!

That’s all for now. I hope you found is a bit informative and interesting 🙂 Happy hooping!

Gingernut x


Let me know if you have any thoughts! :]

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