Of all the things TikTok has made me buy over the years, a weighted hula hoop is probably the most unexpected. As I’m sure you all know, TikTok, or more specifically, FitTok, is full of fitness trends – there’s the 12-3-30 workout, the Stairmaster challenges, and all the walking workouts, but I’m not one to buy into them. When I came across the nascent weighted hula hoop trend on my ‘For You’ page, however, my interest piqued.
In one video, a TikTokker explained how a weighted hula hoop had toned her waist more than any other waist exercises, and while I’ve never exercised for aesthetic reasons, I couldn’t help but wonder whether something that is essentially an adult toy could really yield results.
Studies have also proven there to be benefits. One showed that using a weighted hula hoop every day for six weeks helped reduce waist size, while another compared a group of people who used a weighted hula hoop daily and walked 9.9k steps a day, to a group of people who only walked the 9.9k steps. Both groups lost weight, but the group who used the weighted hula hoop also reduced in waist size.
It would be fun if nothing else, I told myself, so off to Amazon I went, bagging myself the Swiss Activa smart weighted hula hoop.
It arrived two days later, complete with 16 links to adapt to fit your waist size, a monitor to tell you how long you’ve been hula hooping and how many calories you’ve burned, and a weighted ball. From then on, I committed to using it every day (aiming for 30-40 minutes) for 2 weeks. Here’s everything I learned, and my honest results.
1. Building a weighted hula hoop is a breeze
Assembling the device took some time (as all DIY does, if you’re me) but once I got the hang of it, it was pretty simple to put each link into place to create the complete circle (the smooth bit goes on the outer circle, and you slot each piece in by pressing down on the triangle buttons).
You don’t need to use every link; I chose enough to fit snugly around my waist, which meant the hoop wouldn’t fall down and I wouldn’t have the added challenge of trying to keep it up at the same time as trying not to knock myself out with the weighted ball.
The weight that comes with my particular hoop is a rubber ball, weighing 422g, or 0.9lbs. The package also came with a tape measure so that you can document your waist size prior to using the equipment. As mentioned, I didn’t go into this challenge with an aesthetic goal in mind, rather to spice up my sweat seshs with something fun, but I did decide to measure mine out of curiosity. Read on for my results.
2. Weighted hula hooping takes practice
I can confirm that using a weighted hula hoop like the kind that I bought (i.e. fitted to your waist with a weight attachment) is nothing like using a standard hoop. My first attempt was laughable as I couldn’t grasp how to get the momentum going. I imagined I’d just do what I would with a normal hula hoop; move my body in a circular motion to keep it going, but given that this one was heavier and fitted to my waist, swaying around like my life depended on it didn’t quite work.
Then – lightbulb moment – I realised I had to flick the weight, which is attached to the hoop by a string, away from me to get it going. I was on a roll.
PT Anthony Maritato says it’s about making this a smaller, consistent movement that doesn’t require you to shuffle too much, adding: ‘A steady rhythm is the best way to maintain momentum. Changing the length of the string will change the difficulty; the longer it is, the harder it will be. Some clients may also benefit from using a metronome app on their phone, or choosing a song with a strong rhythmic beat to keep timing with the motion.’
3. Weighted hula hooping requires coordination
According to the instructions that came with my weighted hula hoop, it’s recommended to use it for 30-40 minutes for ‘optimal results’, but my first sessions involved so many stops and starts that for the first two days I only racked up around 15 minutes or so.
Luckily, Maritato says that 30-40 minutes isn’t always necessary. He says: ‘The duration of use depends on your goals. To improve your cardiovascular health, I’d recommend using the hoop for 10 minutes per day, going as fast as you can. If you’re using the device to loosen tight lower back muscles, a 2-minute episode would be ideal.’
I’d put all the stopping and starting down to my lack of coordination; if I strayed from a position that worked (standing in one spot while doing small hip circles is the way to do it, FYI), the ball would slow down and eventually stop spinning completely.
4. Using a weighted hula hoop is a form of cardio
And boy did I sweat. Once I worked out how to keep going long enough to get through a whole episode of Schitt’s Creek (multi-tasking for the win) with minimal stops, my heart-rate shot up, and I finished every session with a serious sweat on.
What I will say is that the ‘smart’ features of the weighted hula hoop I went for didn’t seem to reflect how sweaty and out of breath I’d get. In fact, judging by the Amazon reviews, I’m not the only one it didn’t work for.
It claims to count your calories and the duration of your workouts, but I was often told I’d only been exercising for 10 or so minutes when I’d managed 30, and the calories burned were often a lot lower than I’d expected. I’m not a fan of relying on fitness trackers, so it was no skin off my nose, but it’s something to keep in mind if that’s a feature you’d be especially swayed by.
5. Weighted hula hooping can get monotonous, but music helps
Naturally, the more I used my hoop, the better I got at mastering it, but the more mundane it became, too. Even with the TV on in the background, the noise of the weight ball going around the links grated on me and put me off whatever I was watching. But I found an easy solution: I sacrificed Schitt’s Creek for music, and put my wireless headphones in. Turns out, this actually gave me more energy and motivation to keep going.
This is something Maritato also recommends. ‘If someone wants to use this device for 30-40 minutes, I think the best way to make it more enjoyable is to create a music playlist of different tempo songs that you enjoy and can keep the activity interesting. Another option is to perform this exercise while watching your favourite television show, listening to your favourite podcast, or taking an online course.’
6. A weighted hula hoop can be uncomfortable
While this unconventional method of movement did help me work up a sweat, one of the biggest issues for me was that the links around my waist were quite painful and often left marks. But wearing a thicker top that meant the links couldn’t press into my skin, and losing one link from the hoop so that it wasn’t so tight definitely helped.
What’s more, there’s nowhere for you to put your hands or arms without interfering with the ball spinning, so my arms would ache like you wouldn’t believe. I tried crossing my hands across my chest, but this just felt stiff and hindered my movement. Putting my hands on my head worked best, but they’d sometimes go numb and I’d have to stop. This seemed counterproductive and a silly problem to have during a workout.
Maritato suggests a simple adjustment: ‘Your arms should be positioned in a way that allows you to flex your elbows and, passively, keep your hands near shoulder level or above. Try holding a strap or towel between your hands and looped over your upper back.’
My weighted hula hoop challenge results
So, did I actually see any results? Honest thoughts: after using the hoop almost daily, in conjunction with my gym workouts (usually made up of dumbbell exercises, two or three times per week), and maintaining my 10,000 steps a day, I didn’t see any physical changes. My waist size remained the same, and I can’t say I feel particularly fitter. However, I was travelling during the two-week challenge, which meant that there were three or four days in which I wasn’t able to use the hoop, which may well have affected my results.
Maritato says if a physical change is what you’re after, long-term consistency over a balanced diet and exercise routine is key: ‘Weighted hula hooping alone won’t reduce fat – you’d need to look at your nutrition, too.
‘Other cons include needing a large open area to avoid knocking over objects or hitting people. It may also irritate the skin if used for longer than a few minutes.’
But there are certainly some advantages: ‘Weighted hula hooping is a novel idea that might get people to move more and have fun while doing it, which may well mean you see results that you haven’t before.’ As we all know, the workout you enjoy is the one you’ll stick to and reap the rewards from.
Maritato adds: ‘The motion of hula hooping may also help reduce lower back pain and stiffness, and improve core muscle activation.’
I will say that it is a very accessible cardio workout, and there were times when I didn’t feel like going to the gym so I picked up my hoop instead. It’s also good for multitasking; if I wasn’t listening to music, I’d listen to a podcast. A final pro: I appreciated that the ball was made out of rubber, meaning that it didn’t hurt me or damage my flat if (or should I say, when) it accidentally hit anything.
Will I continue using it? As much as I wish I could say yes, I’m unlikely to do so as regularly as I did for this challenge, but I definitely won’t be getting rid entirely. I’ll be keeping it on show in my living room, for the times when dragging myself to the gym is a no-go, but moving my body is a must.
Plus, two weeks is nothing compared to how long some of the TikTok crowd have used weighted hula hoops for, so perhaps the benefits would eventually start to outweigh the cons in the long run. Who knows, there may well be a plot twist (see what I did there? Hula hoop? Twist?) on the way.