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The latest exercise fad is a childhood toy

hula hoop young women boston common fitness exercise Mulan Duong, 23, of Braintree, Massachusetts, and Jessica Ferraro, 22, of Las Vegas, hula-hoop on the Boston Common in Boston on July 1.
Credit: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe

It has been a circus prop, a toy and a 1950s fad, and now the hula hoop is making a comeback as a workout tool that fitness experts say provides an effective cardio and even meditative workout.

A new generation of hoop activists is putting another spin on the hoop, which ancient Greeks fashioned from grapevines and used to exercise the hips.


Circus hooper Marawa Ibrahim, 32, known professionally as Marawa the Amazing, lives a nomad’s life performing and teaching hula hooping around the world.

“Fitness hooping is what I’m really into. Even at circus school I developed a workout using core muscles to push the hoop,” said Ibrahim, who can spin 133 hoops simultaneously and has appeared on the UK reality show "Britain’s Got Talent."

How to use the hoop:

  • Anyone can do it, regardless of age or fitness level.

  • Choose the right size for you — it should come up to your hips, at least.

  • Proper technique also means balance. Spin in both directions to tone the body evenly.

  • An American Council on Exercise-sponsored study found that hooping could burn up to 600 calories an hour.

Kelly Strycker is the director of Chicago Hoop Dance, a community-based collection of performers, teachers and students who practice hooping as a form of moving meditation similar to yoga, or chi-gong, the Chinese system of exercise and breath control.

“The meditative aspect is in the rhythm, the rocking movement that stimulates the heartbeat, the back and forth,” she said.

Strycker said hoop dancing, which includes elements of yoga, attracts mainly women between 25 and 60 who want a fitness routine they will do.

Her classes, held at venues including parks and beaches around Chicago, include 20 to 25 minutes of yoga moves, lunges and squats, and hooping for the wrists, hands, shoulders, legs, hips and waists.

“There definitely is a circus overlay in hoop dance,” said Strycker, adding toned muscles and weight loss are common benefits. “It tends to be a fitness workout because of the nature of the movement.”

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