At first, hula hooping may remind you of rock’n roll discos from teenage years. However, the nostalgic toy has a long history as it was originally invented as a form of dance already in ancient Greece. In recent times, hula hooping has experienced a renaissance thanks to the development of weighted hula hoops, which are utilized in group fitness classes and exercise video games.
The health benefits of hula hooping have now been studied for the first time in a randomized controlled trial carried out by the research group of Hannele Yki-Järvinen, professor of Medicine at the University of Helsinki. The research group is specialized in studying the metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In the study, 55 overweight subjects, mostly women, were randomized to hula hoop for six weeks with the 1,5 kg weighted hula hoop or to walking 10 minutes more than usually. Then, the groups switched their form of physical activity for the next six weeks. Body muscle and fat and metabolic parameters were measured at the start of the study and after first and second exercise periods.
Hula hooping for 13 minutes a day decreased waist circumference on the average by 3 centimeters, in some up to 8 cm. In addition, abdominal fat decreased and trunk muscle mass increased significantly, explains M.D. Mari Lahelma, a doctoral student in the research group.
These changes in fat and muscle were not seen in the walking group. Both types of physical activities had beneficial, although different effects on blood lipids. Hula hooping decreased significantly bad LDL cholesterol, while walking increased good HDL cholesterol. The change in body weight was minor in both groups, approximately half a kilogram.
“The decrease in waist circumference is a remarkable health benefit. In the current study, the decrease gained by hula hooping was surprisingly large. The same decrease would require several kilograms of weight loss”, Yki-Järvinen emphasizes.
The research is accepted to be published in ‘Obesity Facts’, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity.