Looking for an unusual but fun way to get (or stay) in shape? Consider hula-hooping. You may have done it as a kid, but you might not have realized how good a cardiovascular activity it can be.
A small study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise found that a 30-minute hoop workout burned 210 calories, on average—comparable to the exertion of boot camp workouts, step aerobics and cardio kickboxing. Hooping also helps increase core strength, balance and flexibility. Depending on how you use the hoop, it can give your arms and legs a good workout, too.
Some gyms offer hooping classes, and the hoops are increasingly being incorporated into yoga, Pilates and dance workouts.
Or, you can buy your own to work out with at home (there are hoola hoop DVDs, with names such as Hoopnotica, and online videos for guidance). The hoops come in different adult sizes (37 to 45 inches) and weights (1 to 4 pounds). Bigger, heavier hoops are best for beginners. Bigger ones also allow for slower rotations, which might enable you to hoop longer and thus burn more calories.
If you have low back pain, consult a health care provider or physical therapist before hula-hooping.