Hula hoops have been a popular toy and piece of exercise equipment for many years. As the name suggests, a weighted hula hoop is a heavier, and usually larger, version of the original plastic hoop. This equipment may offer a fun, affordable, and challenging exercise. However, it may cause discomfort in the back and hips.

Weighted hula hoops are bigger and heavier than traditional options. There are many different types of weighted hula hoop, but they typically get the additional weight from plastic or steel balls, water, or sand. They usually also include some foam to provide cushioning.

Recently, this exercise equipment has gained popularity as a quick, fun, and easy aerobic workout that people can perform at home. Although it is safe for most people to use, anyone with any back or hip issues or other health concerns should consider speaking with a doctor first.

In this article, we discuss weighted hula hoops and whether they are a good exercise option.

A person using a hula hoop.Share on Pinterest
Lisa MacIntosh/Stocksy

Hula hooping has been a popular activity and exercise for many years due to the potential benefits it offers. It is an inexpensive and generally low impact exercise that is accessible for many people. A 2019 study concludes that weighted hula hoops can improve body composition, reduce abdominal fat, and have a positive effect on blood pressure.

Some possible benefits may include:

Aerobic exercise

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week. Weighted hula hooping can provide a fun and suitable way for a person to exercise. Some evidence also suggests that traditional hula hooping can burn up to 210 calories in 30 minutes.

A 2016 study suggests that regular hula hooping may be a more enjoyable form of exercise than other options, such as walking, and this will likely extend to using weighted hula hoops. Additionally, older research suggests that hooping can provide an intense, total body workout.

Balance, stability, and strengthening the core

The activity may also help improve neuromuscular control and posture, which are essential for balance and stability. A 2020 study notes that hula hoops improve core muscle activation and lumbar stability in individuals with low lumbar stability.

Additionally, weighted hula hoops may provide moderate intensity core muscle activation that can strengthen the core and improve endurance. However, the workout can also target other muscle groups. Different videos online can provide ideas on how to hoop to target other muscle groups.

Burns abdominal fat and reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol

A small 2015 study suggests that using weighted hoops can reduce waist and hip circumference measurements and help redistribute body fat.

Similarly, a 2019 study found that weighted hula hooping can reduce abdominal fat and increase trunk muscle mass in individuals with obesity. This study also suggests that the exercise can significantly decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which is the type that can increase a person’s risk of stroke and heart attack.

Before buying a weighted hula hoop, a person may want to consult a fitness expert or doctor to get advice on what size and weight are most appropriate for them. Not doing so can increase the possibility of injuries.

Muscle injuries

Hooping is a repetitive exercise. Moving in the same direction for a long period may cause muscle soreness. Hoops that are too heavy can cause off-balanced hooping, placing the body at unnatural angles. This can cause muscle strains and sprains.

Skin irritation

Depending on the material of the hoop, a person who uses this equipment without clothing over their torso may experience skin irritation from the friction.

Bruising and injuries

The impact of prolonged, high intensity hooping can put repeated pressure on a body part. This pressure can break tiny blood vessels near the skin surface and cause bruises. Common areas of injury may include the ribs, back, and hips. People who perform advanced tricks can also sustain neck, eye, nose, and ankle injuries, even with proper use.

A 2017 case report describes how an individual sustained a penetrating eye injury when using a hula hoop. The injury resulted in an iris prolapse and a traumatic cataract. The authors state the importance of hula hooping in a sufficiently large area at a safe distance from other people.

Back and hip discomfort

To perform the hooping movement, a person needs to gyrate their hips forward and backward to keep the hoop spinning around their waist. Repetitive hip movements can sometimes provoke back pain, especially in people with a history of this symptom.

Weighted hula hoops come in different diameters, weights, materials, tubing sizes, and styles.

The size will vary by type and brand, but it typically ranges from 35 to 55 inches. Many are also adjustable, allowing people to change the diameter of the hoop. When choosing the appropriate diameter, a person will need to consider their:

  • body type
  • height
  • experience level
  • likely use of the hoop

Hoop weights often range from 2 to 5 pounds. Often, manufacturers suspend the weight on a string connecting to the hoop or include extra weight inside the tubing.

People may want different weights depending on their intention and skill level, and they should choose a weight that they can comfortably use. For a beginner, it is advisable to start with a lighter weight. As they gain strength and experience, they can increase the weight.

During a hooping session, a person should wear form-fitting clothes. Loose clothing can get in the way, and hooping on bare skin can increase a person’s risk of bruises. They should find a workout area with enough space and few, if any, people to avoid unwanted injuries. If the hoop is detachable, it is important to ensure that it is securely closed before starting.

The steps for using a weighted hula hoop are the same as those for a regular hula hoop. They include:

  1. First, find a good starting position. It often helps to stagger the feet, placing one foot slightly ahead of the other. If the right foot is forward, it is easiest to rotate the hips counter-clockwise. Conversely, if the left foot is forward, the body will want to move clockwise.
  2. With this footing, practice the hooping motion without the hoop. Slowly shift the weight from the heels to the toes, moving the hips with small forward and backward movements. Repeat this movement until it feels comfortable.
  3. Place the hoop on the floor and step inside it. Then, grab the hoop with both hands and raise it to waist height. Rest the hoop on the small of the back, just above the hips. The front of the hoop should point down slightly.
  4. Spin the hoop around the waist and attempt to catch it with the front hip when beginning the rocking motion. Change the speed of the hoop by adjusting the speed of the hip movement.

As with any form of exercise, a person should take precautions before starting a new workout or program.

Using a weighted hula hoop is generally safe as long as the person uses a size and weight appropriate for their build, fitness level, and strength.

It is advisable to follow certain precautions, such as:

  • wearing appropriate clothing
  • hooping in a suitable space
  • stopping immediately if there is any discomfort

Additionally, anyone with a back, hip, or spine injury or a chronic health condition should consult a doctor before attempting to hoop.

Weighted hula hoops are a heavier and larger variation of the popular toy. People can use them as a novel, fun, and challenging addition to their workout routine. It may take some practice for individuals to become familiar with the hooping movement, but it is an accessible aerobic activity that people can perform at home.

Although hooping is generally safe for most people, those with existing health conditions may wish to consider consulting a doctor before adding it to their exercise regimen.