During the pandemic, many people transformed their living spaces into home gyms, and now the potential for summer “vaxications” will likely keep workout trends on the rise as people prepare to finally leave the house. If you’ve scrolled through TikTok in the last few months, you’ve likely seen the weighted hula hoop trend flooding with claims of people achieving a slimmer waist and a stronger core. Just like its name suggests, a weighted hula hoop is a heavier version of a typical hula hoop that you spin around your waist. Most have individual pieces that connect and come apart to adjust to your body type, and are typically either made of a heavy plastic with exterior padding or feature a weighted ball that attaches to the hoop. This spin on the staple childhood toy is on the more affordable side for exercise equipment on the market today, ranging from $20 to upwards of $60 on Amazon.
But some TikTokers have come out to warn against using weighted hula hoops after claiming they experienced internal bruising and even abdominal hernias from overuse. So we’re left wondering: Are they actually safe to use? Experts weighed in on the exercise benefits of weighted hula hoops, the risks of improper use and how to use them safely to get the most out of your workout.
Are weighted hula hoops effective exercising tools?
The short answer is yes — weighted hula hoops are good exercise tools as long as you’re using them correctly. Andrew Schillaci, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Combo Training in New York City, said that weighted hula hoops “are a good alternative to mix into a workout program,” noting that they’re efficient for “building aerobic endurance, burning calories and providing an alternative to running or jumping rope” since there isn’t a high impact on the knees.
The benefits of weighted hula hoops are similar to those of aerobic exercises, which can:
- Strengthen your core
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Burn calories
- Improve your balance
Some smaller studies looked at the health benefits of weighted hula hooping in particular — including reduced abdominal body mass, decreased abdominal fat and a slimmer waist — and Jenna Tosto, a physical therapist with the Department of Rehabilitation and Human Performance at Mount Sinai, noted that these findings are “consistent with other forms of strength or resistance training.” But when it comes to using a weighted hula hoop regularly, both Tosto and Schillaci agreed that these tools should be used in addition to a well-rounded workout routine.
“Weighted hula hooping should be a part of a healthy fitness program, not the only form of exercise,” said Tosto. “Healthy fitness programs can include cardiovascular or aerobic exercise and strength training of major muscle groups of the body.”
If you’re wary of trying out a weighted hula hoop or are looking for alternative exercises, Schillaci recommended jumping rope “because it requires good rhythm and hand-eye coordination.” He personally prefers jogging/sprinting since it helps him think clearly and produce endorphins, while also complementing strength training by “building my aerobic endurance, which improves my recovery time in between sets.”
Tosto recommended core strengthening exercises as a major part of “a full body strength and conditioning program that aims to strengthen all major muscle groups of the body.” She added that “structured strength training combined with cardiovascular or aerobic exercise, like HIIT training and interval training, and proper nutrition can be key components of a healthy lifestyle.”
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends all healthy adults ages 18 to 65 do moderate intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes per day, three days per week. Strength training is recommended twice per week.
Tosto suggested to always consult with a healthcare provider before beginning a new health and fitness routine, including using a weighted hula hoop.
How to safely use a weighted hula hoop
Just like with any other exercise tool, people should always take caution when using a weighted hula hoop and be sure to not overdo it. Tosto noted that minor injuries reported with the repetitive use of a weighted hula hoop include bruising of the skin and soft tissue of the abdomen.
“Individuals with a history of low back pain should be mindful that this type of exercise requires repeated rotational movement, which can be provocative of back pain symptoms,” she added.
In order to ensure safety, Tosto recommended that individuals at a lower fitness level start with an unweighted hoop and progress to a hula hoop weighing under 2 pounds as fitness, strength and coordination improve. While there isn’t yet literature that mentions a strict time period to use a weighted hula hoop, Tosto noted that general recommendations advise using a hula hoop for no more than 20 minutes per exercise session.
While using a weighted hula hoop, Schillaci suggested keeping your shoulders down in order to protect your lower back, keeping your chest up to prevent the shoulders from rounding forward and keeping your ribs down, which will prevent hyperextending the lower back.
If you notice bruising, chest pain or other severe body pains during or after using a weighted hula hoop, it’s recommended that you stop using it and talk to your doctor.
Best weighted hula hoops to try out
If you’re hoping to hop on this TikTok trend, here are some popular and highly rated options to try out.
This 2-pound hula hoop has a 4.3-star average rating on Amazon and features a smooth, padded, grey and pink exterior. It comes with eight parts that snap together and can be disassembled by pushing a button on one side of each piece and pulling apart. While the brand states that the largest size measures 3 feet in diameter, the size can be adjusted to fit your body type.
This hula hoop by Hoopnotica includes six segments that snap together to form a 42-inch diameter ring, which can be adjusted as needed. When all six segments are linked, the hula hoop weighs 1.5 pounds and when five segments are snapped together, it weighs 1.1 pounds, making it a low enough weight for beginners. The reflective exterior comes in Blue, Pink and Black, and features a strap that holds the segments and can be worn for easy traveling.
LBZJ’s Weighted Hula Hoop is 1.76 pounds and 37.4 inches wide when all eight segments are attached. While the tubing itself is made from durable polypropylene, each segment is padded in a soft foam. According to the brand, the wavy design around the rim also generates a massaging feel as you spin.
A stylish option for beginners, this weighted hula hoop by Spinsterz comes in five colors (Black with hints of colorful sparkles, Pink, Bronze and two shades of Blue) and you can choose between two sizes: a 38-inch diameter hoop and a 42-inch diameter hoop. Made from flexible polyethylene, the brand recommends letting the hula hoop sit for a minimum of 12 hours after unboxing to allow it to “naturally open” before connecting it together on both ends to form a circle. According to the brand, the hoop weighs between 1.3 and 1.5 pounds. Spinsterz also offers a 1.12-pound weighted hula hoop with six detachable segments.
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