Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008

Hula Hoop classes give adults low impact exercise, nostalgia trip

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Brenda Ahearn/The Gazette
Pat Coleman of Lanham participates in a hula hoop class Monday in Mount Rainier.

Large, colorful hula hoops swirled in different directions on waists, arms and necks, but the twirlers — adult participants in a Monday hoop dance class —weren't just reconnecting with their childhood, but exercising their bodies and minds.

Instructor Noelle Powers said she sees the trend growing among adults who want to hoop for a variety of reasons.

"It's a wonderful uniter because people of all races and creeds and sizes and genders can get as equally excited about it, whether it's for fitness, or dance, or spiritually or meditation," she said. "The possibilities are endless."

After 30 minutes of hooping, participants in Monday's class at Joe's Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier were breathing heavily and pausing for water breaks. Powers also emphasized how hooping can improve brain strength since hoopers use both brain hemispheres when they switch directions.

"It's kind of a fun version of a crossword puzzle," she said. "It really helps people with coordination."

Powers said she is right-handed, but after years of hooping, she can now use her left hand for a number of activities.

"If I'm tossing a piece of trash into the trashcan with my left hand, I wouldn't have been able to make it in a couple years ago," she said.

Many of the participants during Monday's class were either new to hooping or had only been doing it for a month or two.

Lanham resident Pat Coleman, 50, was looking for a fun and interesting exercise class. Hooping also appealed to her because she "enjoyed it as a child," she said. After 30 minutes, she could keep the hoop up on her waist and spin it both directions.

"I didn't realize there's a lot of different things you can do with a hula hoop," she said.

Erika Briscoe, 34, wanted a low-impact way to lose weight after having a baby.

"It's much harder than when I was 4," said the District Heights resident. "I used to hula hoop all the time when I was younger. I thought it would be just like riding a bike."

But Briscoe enjoyed the challenge and is planning to return to the class in September with a friend.

Some of the more advanced hoopers did tricks with multiple hoops and learned how to move a spinning hoop from their legs to their waists. Max Reid of Washington, D.C., began hooping two months ago and organizes informal outdoor "Hoop Jams."

He will also attend the Washington, D.C. event for World Hoop Day, when hoopers will gather throughout the world on Friday to hoop collectively.

Powers spent much of Monday's class explaining the physics behind hooping and what tricks will get the hoop moving around legs, arms and in opposite directions, and participants closely followed her instructions.

It was a far cry from when they were children who hula hooped at playgrounds¸ never questioning gravity or why the hoops stayed up.

E-mail Elahe Izadi at