Are hula hoops worth it for cardio/fitness?

I’ve been plodding along on a treadmill for about an hour every other day since January. For mundane reasons, I need to take some time off from the impact-related part. To fill in the cardio-gap, I’ve been thinking of getting a sport hula-hoop. Hey, if I can run in place for an hour watching television, I can stand there and waggle my hips for an hour. (It helps that this takes place in the basement, where no one can witness.)

Is it worth it? I’ve plunked around with a kid’s toy and from that limited experience I know that I suck at hula-hooping. But be that as it may, I figure I can learn how in short order. Will keeping one going boost the heart rate? Since food intake management and movement of large heavy objects are also elements to the overall fitness plan, high calorie burn isn’t necessarily a focus—it’ll be a by-product of maintaining the right heart rate for the hour.

Once the skill is learned, does it become trivially easy to keep it going and so the heart rate won’t elevate that much? How do weighted hoops figure in? Does effort it takes to move the extra weight make up for the slower movement needed to maintain balance? Any thoughts?



Lots of different numbers floating out on the net in a quick search. The one that makes the most sense to me is this one:

Mostly though the numbers come in at 200 to 400 over a half hour depending on efficiency and weighted or unweighted hoop. Aiming for a “Perceived Effort” level of breathing hard but able to say a several word sentence, or for a target heart rate if you need to be more quantitative about it, may be best. I know my trying to Hula hoop would keep my heart rate up and have nowhere near your confidence in being able to master it in short order.

Of course there are other low to non-impact aerobic things to do to: swimming, elliptical, rowing, biking, etc …

Yeah, sites I found were mostly either trying to sell me something or airy-fairy puppy-princess-pink pages that were weak on cites (the Dope kind of spoils a lot of places). A big conflict I found was in weighted or non-weighted hoops. I presume that weighted hoops get more press and focus because hey, it’s exercise, so more weight must be good. But doesn’t the added weight mean its maximum rotation speed will be slower? Or in the reverse, wouldn’t a lighter hoop require faster movement to keep it balanced? Of course, the ranges could have enough overlap to make it moot and a heavier hoop would provide both the cardio and a bit more toning.

The attraction of a hoop (if it’s not too gimmicky to provide an honest workout) is its relative price, storage size, and location–the floorspace is already taken up by the treadmill. And quietness, too. Not that an exercise bike is all that noisy (unless it’s a real bike. If it’s a real bike I would most certainly clip baseball cards to the spokes).

I thought about going to the other end of the manly-man spectrum and putting a speed bag in the basement–if anything, it really appeals to the rhythm side of things. But there goes quietude. And what the hell does it take to stand there flailing your arms for an hour? Once the endurance is built, are the arm muscles capable of burning enough oxygen to create a cardio workout? (Or is my thinking off on that?)

Arms and shoulders as a group probably aren’t big enough muscle groups to give you the needed calorie burning that you are striving for.
Hula hoops make a bit of sense (assuming you really could do it for an hour). I say assuming because I know I couldn’t.
The weighted hoops make sense because you will need to provide much more force to keep it at your hip level which would up the calories burned.

Personally, I’d buy a stationary bike (maybe with some of those fandangled arm pulleys)

get a heavy bag and kick and punch it - seriously exhausting, but just punching you are not going to be able to keep up long enough.

If you have the ceiling height, get a skipping rope - GREAT cardio

If you can consistantly raise your heartbeat to 65% of your theoretical maximum you can use it.

To find this take your age and subtract it from 220. 220bpm (beats per minute) in theory is the maximum your heart can beat and still be effective at pumping blood

So I am 46, so I would take 220-46 = 174

That means no aerobic exercise I do, should I ever excede 174bpm

Now you need to get 65% of that

In my case it’d be 174 X .65 = 113

So for me to use a hula hoop I’d have to use it so my heartbeat is raised to a minimum of 113bpm for at least 60 minutes a day.

The range you shoot for is between 65% and 85% of your maximum heartrate (in my case 174)

So as long as you can hula fast enough to keep your heart rate up GO FOR IT.

But with any exercise program lasting results come from varying your routine. Try hula one day, swimming the next, running the next, back to hula and well you get the idea

Good luck

In terms of weighted vs unweighted - MayoClinic has this to say:

Honestly I couldn’t see it as the mainstay of an aerobic part of an exercise plan. I’d guess that once you got good enough to do it long enough you’d probably also be efficient enough that it wouldn’t be as good of an exercise. Plus it doesn’t really seem to get the big muscle groups going - some core muscles getting the timing right is all it takes. Heavy on the coordination, not so heavy on the big muscles. The major aerobic choices all involve the legs because those are such big muscle groups and create big demands. I could see throwing it into a mix of activities, to keep things from getting into a rut and to keep your body guessing (and from getting too efficient at any single aerobic activity), sure. Likewise the speed bag alone is not likely going to be enough, not unless you are good enough to also be doing some fancy footworking at the same time. If your impact level could take it and you like the boxer work-out motif then going back and forth from 5 minutes of speed bag to 5 minutes jump rope work outs for your total work-out time would work you pretty hard - but probably more in the form of high intensity interval training (HIIT) than the aerobic that you seem top be looking for. And if you are willing to take on the HIIT approach then you can do that in a wide variety of low to no impact ways - burpees, light weight dumbell or unloaded barbell thrusters (a favorite of the Crossfit crowd), doing some combination of your large muscle compound move weight exercises into routines with fairly light weights but at very high repetitions very quickly and all in a row seeing how many sets you can complete in the half hour, or even less.

How low of impact do you need?

To shout out a less-scientific answer, I’d say anything that gets you moving strenuously is worth it. If you can do this and enjoy it with hula hoops, then there you go.

Sorry I can’t answer your question about the hula-hoop, but I’d like to talk about this.

Why are you using a treadmill instead of getting outside and running? The most common answer is “weather,” but, if you’ve been doing this since January, you’ve at least been through some good weather, almost no matter what part of the world you live in, either back in January or now. Judging by your calling it “plodding along,” it doesn’t sound like you’re having much fun on the hamster machine. Get out and touch nature. You will be blown away by what a difference it makes.

And the impact thing can be solved. People footstrike harder on treadmills, and I’m guessing you’re wearing conventional running shoes (Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Brooks, Asics; am I right?) That’s a double-whammy. Do some research on minimal footwear.

I’d say there’s a near-100% chance that you don’t need to take the time off that you think you do. You’re probably just broken down from hating the treadmill. I know I would be. I can’t run 15 minutes on one of those infernal machines, much less an hour every other day.

I foud ‘hula hoop sydrome’ but its a very old cite.

Id stick with more well known low impact energy burning options. Theres enough injury risks with those without doing something less well known, where the risks of longer term usage are harder to quantify.

This is in the context of assuming theres injuries in the picture stopping you running or walking on a treadmill, so Id have to wonder if you’re risking making things worse by adding something like this in rather than better.


I wouldn’t trust these to make you slim.