A new generation of hoop activists is putting another spin on the
hoop, which ancient Greeks fashioned from grapevines and used to
exercise the hips.
Circus hooper Marawa Ibrahim, known professionally as Marawa the
Amazing, lives a nomad’s life performing and teaching hula hooping
around the world.
“Fitness hooping is what I’m really into. Even at circus school I
developed a workout using core muscles to push the hoop,” said
Ibrahim, who can spin 133 hoops simultaneously and has appeared on
the UK reality show "Britain’s Got Talent."
The 32-year-old Australian said anyone, regardless of age or fitness
level, can keep the hoop spinning but choosing the right size hoop
“You can’t hoop with a kid’s hoop. When you were a kid you were half
as tall,” she said, adding that a hoop should reach to the hips, at
least. “I used to teach a gym class of overweight women. I made
hoops that were almost up to their armpits and they could do it.”
Proper technique also means balance. Even the pros can develop
lopsidedness, she said, so spin in both directions in order to tone
the body evenly, head to toe.
Kelly Strycker is the director of Chicago Hoop Dance, a
community-based collection of performers, teachers and students who
practice hooping as a form of moving meditation similar to Yoga, or
Chi-gong, the Chinese system of exercise and breath control.
“There definitely is a circus overlay in hoop dance,” said Strycker,
adding toned muscles and weight loss are common benefits. “It tends
to be a fitness workout because of the nature of the movement.”
Strycker said hoop dancing, which includes elements of yoga,
attracts mainly women between 25 and 60 who want a fitness routine
they will do.
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Her classes, held at venues including parks and beaches around
Chicago, include 20 to 25 minutes of yoga moves, lunges and squats,
and hooping for the wrists, hands, shoulders, legs, hips and waists.
“The meditative aspect is in the rhythm, the rocking movement that
stimulates the heartbeat, the back and forth,” she said.
Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer at the American Council
on Exercise (ACE), said a 2011 ACE-sponsored study found that
hooping could burn up to 600 calories an hour.
"We found that just by the nature of movement it did a pretty
effective job,” Bryant said. “The only downside is if one had
difficulty mastering movement. But larger hoops reduce the learning
Ibrahim said a hoop, unlike a trapeze, is portable and fun.
“Walk up to any kid and they’ll have a go at it,” she said.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Steve Orlofsky)
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