Whether you’re sticking to your home workouts or heading back to the gym, you might be looking for ways to mix up your workout routine before the summer rolls around. A weighted hula hoop can be a fun (and nostalgic) addition to your current fitness routine — the exercise tool, which started picking up steam last year on social media, can help build endurance and burn calories, according to fitness experts we spoke to.
Just like its name suggests, a weighted hula hoop is a heavier version of the typical hula hoop you may have grown up using. Most have individual pieces that connect and come apart to adjust to your body type, and they are typically made of a heavy plastic with exterior padding. This spin on the staple childhood toy is on the more affordable side for exercise equipment on the market today, usually ranging from $20 to $60.
To find out how to use weighted hula hoops safely and effectively, we spoke to personal trainers and physical therapists about the exercise benefits of weighted hula hoops and the risks of improper use. We also highlighted some highly rated options based on expert recommendations about how to shop for them.
Are weighted hula hoops effective exercising tools?
According to the experts we spoke to, a weighted hula hoop can be a good exercise tool when used correctly. Andrew Schillaci, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Combo Training in New York City, said that weighted hula hoops are efficient for “building endurance, burning calories and providing an alternative to running or jumping rope” since there isn’t a high impact on the knees.
John Gallucci Jr., a physical therapist and CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy, noted weighted hula hoops are a good aerobic exercising tool that helps strengthen your core and your lower leg muscles. (Aerobic activity can also help improve cardiovascular health and balance, according to the CDC.) Because of their low intensity, Gallucci added they can be beneficial for individuals that have “trouble working out aerobically otherwise, like walking or running longer distances.”
Weighted hula hoops can also be a great way to practice circumduction, or moving your body in a circular manner, according to Craig Levergood, a personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “Naturally, we tend to move in a forward to backward motion, so there is a lot of value to explore other areas of movement as a potential way to mitigate risk for injury or get out of that front to back motion,” he said.
Levergood added that the hula hooping motion can also benefit how in tune people are with how their body moves, allowing for greater control when doing other exercises. “It can be exceptional for the people that are trying to gain some of that control and bodily awareness that they can’t otherwise get in another form of exercise,” he said.
Some smaller studies have looked at the health benefits of weighted hula hooping, including its effectiveness at reducing abdominal body mass, decreasing abdominal fat and encouraging a slimmer waist. 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.”
Weighted hula hoops to try in 2022
Since we don't test weighted hula hoops ourselves, we rely on expert guidance and our previous reporting about how to shop for them. Our experts recommended looking for a weighted hula hoop that weighs 2 pounds or less and is highly adjustable or offers various sizing options to fit various body types. Below, we highlighted some highly rated weighted hula hoops that align with expert guidance.
Hoopnotica’s weighted hula hoop comprises 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 brand says the hula hoop weighs 1.5 pounds — the hoop weighs about 1.1 pounds when only five segments are snapped together, which can be a good starting point for beginners. It’s available in blue, pink and black, and features a strap that holds the segments for taking it on the go.
This 2-pound hula hoop has a padded grey and pink exterior and features eight segments that can all snap together — they can then be disassembled by pushing a button on one side of each piece and pulling apart, according to the brand. The largest size measures 3 feet in diameter, but the brand says the size can be adjusted to fit your body type by assembling different numbers of segments together.
This weighted hula hoop by Spinsterz comes in five colors: black, pink, bronze and two shades of blue. You can choose between three sizes: a 36-inch, a 38-inch and a 42-inch diameter hoop. According to the brand, the hoop weighs approximately 1.3 pounds. 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.
The Better Sense hula hoop is foam-padded, weighs 2 pounds and can be assembled using up to 8 detachable sections to form three different sizes, ranging from a 28.5-inch diameter to a 37-inch diameter. To detach, you can press and hold the side button and pull both sections apart, according to the brand.
How to add a weighted hula hoop to your exercise routine
Our experts all agreed that weighted hula hoops should be used in conjunction with 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. She recommended including other forms of cardiovascular or aerobic exercise (like walking and cycling) and anaerobic exercises like strength training or HIIT training.
But it’s important to know what fitness goals you’re trying to reach before incorporating a weighted hula hoop into your routine. Because hula hooping is a highly aerobic activity, the tool would be counterintuitive if you’re solely trying to build muscle and strength, according to Levergood.
If you’re wary of trying out a weighted hula hoop or are looking for alternative exercises, Schillaci recommended jumping rope and jogging and sprinting to complement strength training — he added this helps build up aerobic endurance, which improves recovery time in between sets.
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,” Tosto added.
Our experts recommended halting use if you notice bruising, chest pain or other severe body pains during or after a weighted hula hoop exercise. Both Levergood and Gallucci added that people with pre-existing conditions such as herniated discs or a history of spinal fractures should get clearance from a doctor prior to using a weighted hula hoop.
What’s the safest weight for a weighted hula hoop?
While weighted hula hoops can reach up to 5 pounds in weight, Tosto recommended that individuals at a lower fitness level start with an unweighted hoop and progress to a hula hoop weighing 2 pounds and under as fitness, strength and coordination improves.
How long should you use a weighted hula hoop?
Levergood told us weighted hula hooping can be treated like any aerobic exercise, which means the recommended time is about 20 to 30 minutes per exercise session. However, “you can do this for any amount of time depending on your enjoyment level and what you’re trying to get out of it,” he said.
What’s the best form when using a weighted hula hoop?
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.