During one of my recent talks at a church, someone asked me, “How can you exercise when you feel unsafe in your neighborhood?” Honestly, I hate the fact that this is a legitimate question that I often hear. I’m a Chicagoan who’s proud to live on the Southside, but I can understand how some neighborhoods don’t scream, “Put on your Lululemon and get these steps in.”
Of course, all neighborhoods should be safe spaces for exercise, but the prescription for that degree of safety is beyond the reach of my prescription pad. So, I gave the audience a reasonable, simple exercise that does not require leaving your home—weighted Hula hooping.
The crowd immediately erupted in laughter after I said: “hula hooping.” When I looked serious, the laughter stopped, and I saw a sea of sharp side-eyes peering under the wide brims of church hats. I looked over to the pastor for some support—he just had his face in hands. And, he didn’t appear to be praying either. Then, I looked over at the church keyboard player to back me up with some gospel chords; the dude was just shaking his head.
So, I humbly turned to the skeptical crowd and said, “Look at your neighbor on your right and repeat after me… Hula-hooping is good for you.” The crowd let out a slightly uncomfortable laugh at my feeble attempt at a ‘call-and-response.’ Then, I proceeded to win them over further with a couple of memory verses and highlights from a recent study that investigated the health benefits of using a weighted hula-hoop.
In this post, I’ll spare you my in-depth analysis of the biblical story of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego; and I’ll break down the study’s findings instead.
Who was in the hula-hoop study?
The researchers recruited 55 participants through bulletins boards at a hospital in Helsinki. Hence, the study population was exclusively European. The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 70 years.
What did they actually do in the study?
The researchers separated the participants in the two groups— Hula Hooping with a 1.5 Kg hula for at least 10 minutes per day for 6 weeks or walking for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, the groups switched over. During the study, the investigators measured weight, muscle mass, fat composition, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
What did the researchers find out? Was hula-hooping helpful?
The researchers found that hula-hooping did have some significant effects. The participants walked an average of 9,986 steops during the walking portion of the study. During the hula-hoop phase, the participants walked an average of 8,974 steps and Hula-hooped an average of 12.8 minutes daily.
Overall, both walking and hula-hooping led to weight loss, but there was no significant difference between the two groups. However, abdominal fat decreased more during the Hula phase than walking. Likewise, the muscularity of the participants trunks increased more with weighted Hula-hooping. Hula hooping also decreased waist circumference more than walking.
In terms of blood tests, Hula hooping significantly lowered LDL cholesterol while walking had a significant affect on lowering blood pressure.
What were the study’s limitations?
The study had several notable limitations:
- The population size in the study was very small
- There were mostly women in the study, so it’s hard to apply these findings to men. But, fellas—there’s no shame in using a weighted hula hoop especially if it is for your health.
- People were Hula-hooping and walking. This study isn’t an “head-to-head” comparison of Hula-hooping and walking.
- The population was strictly European, a slightly different demographic than the C.O.G.I.C. church on the South Side I was speaking at.
- People in the study were taught how to use a weighted hula-hoop. I’m definitely not coming to your house to show you how to use one.
What’s the bottom line?
- Hula-hooping is a great form of exercise.
- Hula-hopping has similar benefits to resistance training int terms of lowering LDL, the bad cholesterol.
- Compared to walking, Hula-hooping is also more beneficial for decreasing abdominal girth and increasing torso girth
- If can walk around in your house, you should consider adding a weighted hula-hoop in your routine.
- We all need to pitch in an advocate for safe neighborhoods.
- Bear in mind, they used weighted Hula-hoops in the study. That raggedy, old plastic hula-hoop stuck under a double dutch cord in your garage probably isn’t going to work as well.
I am a physician and trained chef. I specialize in gastroenterology and nutrition. Currently I work as the Associate Director of Adult Nutrition at the University of Chicago.