Are Weighted Hula Hoops Effective and Safe?

If you decide to try one, keep in mind: Take it slow.

Some claim that weighted hula hoops are magic for getting a toned torso, tight waist, and strong core. Meanwhile, others say that weighted hula hoops can cause injury, including a hernia and severe bruising. 

The debate raises not just one but two huge questions: Do weighted hula hoops work? And if so, are they safe to use? Here's what experts want you to know about the efficacy and safety of weighted hula hoops.

Are Weighted Hula Hoops Safe?
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Do Weighted Hula Hoops Work?

There are a bunch of different weighted hula hoops on the market. But the concept is the same for all of them. It's a heavier-than-normal hula hoop meant to work your core and burn calories as you swing it around your waist.

Actual weights vary by hula hoop, but many fall squarely into the two- to three-pound range.

Some of them make some pretty outrageous claims. For example, one on Amazon displays an image proclaiming you'll burn "60,000 calories" by using its device for 20 minutes.

The truth is that weighted hula hoops work as long as you're realistic with your expectations. A small study published in 2015 found that weighted hula hooping can reduce waist and hip circumference, lower waist-to-hip ratio, and redistribute body fat.

Also, in 2019, a study of 53 overweight participants found that using a weighted hula hoop for an average of 13 minutes each day decreased belly fat and increased trunk muscle mass. It also lowered levels of "bad" cholesterol.

On the other hand, Doug Sklar, NSCA-CPT, NASM-PES, personal trainer, and founder of New York-based fitness training studio PhilanthroFIT, said that there are more efficient ways to tone your midsection. 

"Unless you have a strong affinity for hula hooping, it's very low on my list of recommended exercises," Sklar told Health.

Instead, Sklar recommended HIIT workouts and planks, along with "a head-to-toe strength training program, paired with sound nutritional choices."

Are They Safe?

Healthcare providers noted that whether weighted hula hoops are safe depends on your fitness level when you start using them. 

"Assuming the hoop is a 'safe' weight of under two pounds, the risk of internal injury seems exceptionally low," Lewis Nelson, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, N.J., told Health.

Most injuries reported involve the abs or lower back muscles and "are related to the movements performed during exercise—not as much due to the weight," added Dr. Nelson. 

But Dr. Nelson pointed out, "greater weights, however, may require more forceful movements, which may result in injury." 

Those forceful movements could injure the tissues around specific internal organs like your kidneys.

In most cases, it's more likely that you'll get bruising to your skin and body fat "from the friction and weight of the hoop," Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told Health

Dr. Dark added that if you're in pain or become injured from your weighted hula hoop, you may want to ease up on using it.

Using a Weighted Hula Hoop Safely

The short answer: Ease into it. 

"Start with a low-weight or unweighted hoop and escalate once your physical condition allows," advised Dr. Nelson. "Starting slow and increasing as your tolerance develops, just like with any exercise, is a tried and true practice."

Seriously, it's essential to take it easy at first. 

"Don't overdo it," added Dr. Dark. "I have seen people who start new vigorous workout plans as New Year's resolutions and get things like muscle strains or even a dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis. It happens every year."

Many hula hoop companies recommend using their product for just five minutes at a time. And it's a good idea to stick with that timeframe, at least at first, until you get used to it. And remember that a safe weight is under two pounds, according to Dr. Nelson.

A Quick Review

Some claim that weighted hula hoops are perfect for magically toned abs and a strong core. And other warn against weighted hula hoops due to the risk of injuries.

But, as experts claim, weighted hula hoops are generally safe to use if you take them slow and listen to your body.

If you get overly out of breath, have chest pain, or develop any other pain issues, stop using the weighted hula hoop and talk to your healthcare provider, Dr. Nelson said.

"If it hurts, stop," added Sklar. "Exercise should not cause pain. If it does, there's a good chance you're doing it incorrectly."

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  1. McGill SM, Cambridge ED, Andersen JT. A six-week trial of hula hooping using a weighted hoop: effects on skinfold, girths, weight, and torso muscle enduranceJ Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(5):1279-1284. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000653

  2. Lahelma M, Sädevirta S, Lallukka-Brück S, et al. Effects of Weighted Hula-Hooping Compared to Walking on Abdominal Fat, Trunk Muscularity, and Metabolic Parameters in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Controlled Study [published correction appears in Obes Facts. 2019;12(5):589]. Obes Facts. 2019;12(4):385-396. doi:10.1159/000500572

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