When it comes to fitness classes, gyms occasionally take their cues from the under-10 set. Major health clubs like Bally Total Fitness, Gold's Gym, and Equinox Fitness have all offered hula hoop classes.
These 30- to 60-minute sessions aren't exactly child's play, though. Most involve a 3- or 5-pound weighted hoop called a Heavy Hoop. You might spin it around your hips for 10 minutes or so, but it's mainly used for strength and cardio moves like doing lunges while lifting the hoop overhead. The result? Aside from burning calories, you build strength in your shoulders, legs, and core—all while having more fun than you'd ever have on a treadmill.
In fact, a hooping class may even be able to take the place of your regular low-impact cardio workout, says Richard Cotton, chief exercise physiologist with www.myexerciseplan.com. And because the hip-swiveling action works your core muscles and increases your flexibility, it's a good complement to traditional ab workouts. (If you have back problems, though, check with your doctor first.)
And if your gym hasn't jumped on the hula-hooping bandwagon, try it at home. First, buy a 3-pound Heavy Hoop ($49 at www.heavyhoop.com), or pick up a regular hoop for around $10 at your local sporting-goods store. Then substitute hooping for the cardio portion of your workout. And yes, you can close the curtains if you're feeling shy.