Hula hoop hip again as craze for fitness fanatics

A new fitness craze is running rings around traditional exercise classes.

The humble hula hoop is whipping up a huge new following across Yorkshire, as classes are booked up within a few days of being advertised.

Fitness instructor Vicky Lakin, who is starting up new classes in Bingley, Skipton and Cottingley said: "It's going mad, I'm fully booked already.

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"I've got about 12 courses running a week at the moment. It's going to be a massive craze around here because it's just by word of mouth that I've got so busy. People have been ringing up from all over."

Traditionally a children's toy, hula hoops have grown up to become a fitness fad. Favoured by celebrities such as Beyonce and Kelly Brook, hooping is said to tone your entire body, develop core strength and help you to lose weight.

"It's really good exercise," says Vicky, who has set up a new business in Yorkshire called Hoop Angels. "Hooping gives you a full body workout."

She says the hula hoop is controlled using your core muscles so just keeping the hoop up and spinning engages the abdominal muscles, improves stamina, co-ordination and balance.

"It is also a low impact exercise and can even help to reduce stress," she added.

But gone are the flimsy little hoops favoured by 1950s school gym teachers. Today's hula hoops have attitude; they are large and heavy. The hoops used in the new style of hoop dance weigh around 700g and measure 41 inches across.

"The bigger the hoop the better really," says Vicky. "The weighted hoops are more beneficial because it's the resistance that helps. The hoop is massaging your tummy and helping to burn the fat."

And it's not just a case of keeping the hoop swivelling around your waist. The new wave of hoop class incorporates a huge variety of dance and aerobic style moves, including stepping in and out of the hoop, "helicoptering" it around your head; limbo dancing and passing it from one person to another.

"Eventually we move onto doing one around your waist and one around your head at the same time," says Vicky, adding that she is also learning more advanced moves such as "fire hooping" where the hoop is set ablaze.

Vicky and some of her trainee hoopers joined a world record attempt for the greatest number of hula hoopers at one time yesterday at a "Hoopathon" event staged in aid of Sport Relief.

She is also helping the Bradford and Bingley building society organise a hula hoop relay on March 19, as part of the Sport Relief event.

Classes are cropping up all over Yorkshire. Vicky has just started teaching hula hooping in secondary schools in Skipton, Bingley and Ilkley either as part of a PE lesson or as an after-school club.

Meanwhile in Sheffield, fitness trainer Charlie Ledger from Seduced by Circus says she is also witnessing a huge new interest in the hula-hoop.

"I just started a new class at Hallam University last week and it's fully booked already. There are 20 places in the class and there are people on the waiting list.

"These hoops are much bigger so they fall down a lot less and you get extra momentum."

Hoop dance instructor John Parnell, 57, who is running a teacher training course in Leeds next weekend, says he has seen a huge rise in the popularity of hula hooping lately.

"The number of classes and teachers has probably doubled year on year, but this year could even triple if not quadruple as more and more people discover the fun of hooping as well as its benefits."

He adds: "It's been scientifically shown that hooping can burn as much as 100 calories in a ten minute period so it's possible to burn between 400 and 600 calories per hour.

But I tell people don't come to lose weight or to get fitter –that will happen– just come to have fun."

FIRST LADY'S RING OF CONFIDENCE

The wife of the American President has shown she's also the First Lady of hula-hooping.

Michelle Obama managed an impressive 142 swivels at a fair on the lawn of the White House to encourage children to exercise and eat healthily before her hoop fell.

Her husband – who was raised in Hawaii, the home of the hula – once called her 'the best hula-hooper I know'.

The First Lady has since challenged some of the US' biggest food companies to "entirely rethink" their products and the way they are marketed to children to reduce obesity.