THE STUDY – THE RESULTS – THE BOTTOM LINE
To gauge the exercise intensity and calorieburning potential of hula-hooping workouts, a team from the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, led by Holthusen and John Porcari, Ph.D., recruited 16 female volunteers between the ages of 16 and 59, all of whom were intermediate- to advanced level hoopers. Prior to actual testing, each participant was allowed to do two practice sessions using a 35-minute hooping workout video developed by Mary Pulak, founder of Hooked on Hooping, a group hooping exercise studio based in Green Bay, Wisc. The video featured a five-minute warm-up followed by a 30-minute hooping workout including seven different dances and a wide variety of choreography. Once they were comfortable with the workout, each participant donned a portable oxygen analyzer and a Polar heart-rate monitor while they hooped along to the exercise video at their own pace using a weighted hoop. Researchers recorded heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption (V•O2) at one-minute intervals during the 30-minute workout. Participants were also surveyed every five minutes on their individual ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) based on the Borg Scale.
Following testing, the researchers sliced and diced the data, determining that hooping burns an average of seven calories per minute
for a total of about 210 calories during a 30-minute hooping workout. As for heart-rate data, the average HR was 151 bpm (beats per minute), which works out to approximately 84 percent of the age-predicted HRmax for the average subject (Figures 1 and 2). Meanwhile the oxygen consumption (V•O2) average was about 20.6 ml/kg/ per minute (Figure 3). Finally, the RPE average for the workout was rated by participants as “somewhat hard” on the Borg Scale.
The Bottom Line
Hooping is an excellent form of exercise. “Before we did the study, I didn’t imagine the heart-rate averages would be so high,” says Holthusen. “I was really impressed by how intense of a workout you can get hooping and how many calories you can burn.” In addition to the hard data the researchers uncovered, Porcari suggests that given the variety of movements in hooping it should be considered a total-body workout that has the potential to improve your flexibility and balance while strengthening and toning the muscles of the back, abdomen, arms and legs. The rhythmic nature of hooping may also be relaxing and almost meditative for some. Although researchers note that a proper training study needs to be done to substantiate hooping’s potential longterm fitness benefits, Holthusen says one thing is certain: “Hooping is fun.”