Cara’s Hula Hoop Fitness Article

My article for Carolina Health and Fitness Monthly Magazine is in the October Issue!

Hooping – The Total Mind. Spirit. Body Workout by Cara Zara

The 1950s Hula-Hoop trend is back with a brand new spin and a grassroots growth that insures that this hoop is here to stay. Hoop Dance is a magical moment that happens when a large plastic circle meets rhythmic body movement. It is hypnotic to watch and exhilarating to do.

Hoop Dance Physical Benefits:

• Burns an impressive 600+ calories an hour

• Tones the entire body by strengthening and lengthening your muscles

• Increases flexibility

• Builds hand-eye coordination

• Improves core strength, balance, and motor skills

and so much more…

All of these physical benefits are important and lately more and more has been written about them. I have seen the change in my body once I began hooping on a regular basis. Defined muscles and a 10lb weight loss are motivating to me but that is not the reason why I hoop. The “Body” part of hooping is just an added bonus.

I’m into my fourth year as a Hoop Dancer and it has been a transforming journey. It all began when my best friend insisted that I participate in a hooping workshop in her back yard. I enjoyed the free-wheeling swoosh of the Hoop around my waist and the awe inspiring tricks of well accomplished hoopers. All I could do at the time was keep the hoop around my waist. Every attempted trick hit the ground with a thud. I have come a long way since that day in the back yard and here is what I’ve discovered.


I teach hooping to children and adults. My favorite thing about teaching children is their enthusiasm and willingness to try. When adults drop a hoop they automatically look around to see who’s watching their mistakes and compare themselves to others. When children drop the hoop they pick it right back up and try again.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood our lives get filled up with a myriad of “can’ts” – “I can’t because I have no rhythm” – “I can’t because I have a bad knee” – I can’t because I’ll look silly” – “I can’t because I’m busy”.

I volunteer with the Allegro Foundation and teach dance to children with severe disabilities. Every time I’m with them I’m amazed at their desire to try. I have NEVER heard one of the children say “I can’t”. They just figure out how they can with what they have.

Hooping isn’t easy. The hoop falls to the ground a million times in a practice session. Just hooping around my waist for 30 minutes would be as boring as the cardio fitness machines that I dread. Challenging myself by learning new tricks keeps the workout fresh and exciting. Alternating between moves that are in my comfort zone and upping the difficulty is a delicate balance. The best way to do this is to lighten the “mind”. Just like the “Little Engine That Could” keep repeating “I think I can” and you will. Always keep in “mind” that you are using a Hula-Hoop. Relax, it is a toy!


Once you let the “mind” go the most amazing thing happens! Your heart and soul come out to play. You begin to remember and relive the sensations you had as a child. The wonderment and silliness are still there trapped somewhere inside you. Let it out!

Many people describe the feeling of “flow” that happens when hooping. A gentle groove calms your mind and warms your spirit. A rhythmic cadence just lets you be… you.

You stop watching others. You stop watching yourself. You are completely in the moment. Time stops and all that surrounds you is pure bliss. You radiate joy. Once you get to this level you will experience the biggest high.

When I learn a new trick I get such a rush. It feels like that moment when I first realized that nobody was holding on to the back of my two-wheeler. A huge “WHEEEEE” blows through my body and I get this amazing adrenaline surge. I see the same “Wow! I did it!” look on the faces of my fellow hoopers. As an adult those moments are rare in everyday life with all of our responsibilities and endless to-do lists.

“Flow” is the reason why I Hoop.

I’ll push myself to try again and again, work through a pulled-hamstring and sweat my booty off for hooping. I will perform in front of people and teach hooping to share the love. I’ll endure frustrating hours of dropping, dropping and dropping the hoop just for the addictive high of pure happiness.

Before hooping I viewed my goals as misty vistas at the top of an arduous mountain usually getting overwhelmed by the climb ahead before even starting. Now I notice the beauty of the rocks on the way up and smile at them. I’m grateful for everything the rocks teach me.

How to get started!

Think you can’t hoop? Think again!  Unlike the hoops you may remember as a child, Hoop Dance hoops are adult-sized and weighted to help keep them spinning. They are also taped to provide traction and to keep them from slipping. They are specially made to ensure hooping is possible for anyone, regardless of shape or size. So get a full-sized hoop! There are many local and online sources for hoops.

What to wear? Form-fitting clothes that are mainly natural fibers and exposed arms/shoulders are easiest to hoop in. Spandex and Lycra will make the hoop slip off your body. Loose clothes will cause the hoop to get tangled. Footwear: anything goes; whatever you’re comfortable in – bare feet, sneakers, dance footwear etc.

Get connected! Take a Hoop Dance class. Join an online Hoop Group. Watch some YouTube videos. Become part of the local “Spin Revolution” free open Hoop Jam sessions. Come and “Join the Circle”!

Cara Zara is a local Hoop Dance Performer and Instructor. For more detailed information, resources and inspiration on hooping visit her website:


Published by Cara Zara

Professional entertainer and educator Cara Zara has performed at festivals, events, libraries, charity functions, and summer camps throughout the Southeast and has interacted with over 250,000 children. She has been teaching her popular programs since 2011 and has taught at over 200 private and public schools throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. She loves inspiring children to learn and be physically active through fun movement and laughter.

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