Hula hoops make rounds in popular circles once more
LONG considered a 1950s staple associated with child's play or circus acts, hula hooping has been making a comeback as a fitness craze or art form, with even Michelle Obama hooping it up for health.
Attesting to the growing popularity of the trend, enthusiasts from around the globe have descended on Los Angeles this week for what has been billed as the "world's first urban hula hooping festival".
Hailing from Germany, Finland, Canada, Australia and across the United States, participants in the week-long event are sweating it out in workshops, showcasing the latest hooping techniques to burn calories or to spin on the dance floor.
The event will climax with a flash mob of hula hoopers.
"The trend is definitely catching on and a lot of the best hula hoopers today are 17- or 18-year-olds who are coming up with stuff we have never seen before," said Rebecca Halls, founder and director of the Los Angeles event.
"Hula hoop artists are also really pushing the envelope in terms of dance."
Hoop queen Marawa Wamp, who holds the world record for twirling 162 hoops simultaneously, said there are only benefits to reap from hooping, whether in terms of fitness, for fun or as an art form.
"For anyone who thinks hula hoop is for the schoolyard, I would say this: I have performed for Kenzo during Paris Fashion Week, and Andree Deissenberg of the Crazy Horse in Paris wants to put me in a show," said Wamp, who travels the world teaching hula hoop and performing.
The 33-year-old, who also holds the Guinness record for the longest ride on high-heeled roller skates, said there are also therapeutic benefits to hooping.
"I have worked in an orphanage in Nepal, I have taken hoops to Somalia, to Cuba, and everywhere you go, no matter how jaded people are, everyone wants to hoop," she said.
"And when they do, they are happy."
Pat Meda, 62, said she got hooked about three years ago while watching a television show about hooping and has not stopped twirling since.
"They call me the hoop lady at the college where I work," said Ms Meda, who lives in Los Angeles and makes her own hoops.
"I even taught a nun how to hula hoop."
Fitness experts say hooping, which dates back to ancient Greece, when hoops were fashioned from grapevines for use in exercise, is a fun alternative to traditional routines such as jogging or working out on machines.
"It's a tremendous total-body workout, given the variety of movements," said John Porcari, a professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Wisconsin.
Porcari, who oversaw a 2011 study on hooping sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, said those who practise hooping can burn up to 400 calories per hour.
"You get all the benefits of exercise and it can relieve anxiety, blood pressure and depression," he added.
"And what's more, people enjoy it."