Weighted hula hoops are everywhere on TikTok right now, with plenty of people claiming they'll give you a tighter waist and stronger core. But not everyone has had a great experience using them, including one woman who claims a weighted hula hoop gave her internal bruising.
Diamanté Fontes shared a post in late March, breaking down what happened. "Buys a weighted hula hoop so my waist can be [hourglass emoji]," she wrote, before "internal bruising" pops up in the video. Then, Fontes mouths, "no more weighted hula hooping." Her caption for the whole thing? "The painnn."
People had mixed reactions in the comments. "Beauty is pain I guess," one wrote. "But did it work?" another said. But some said Fontes video steered them away from buying a weighted hula hoop. "Omfg I was gonna get one," someone wrote. "I was right [about] to buy one—this is a sign," another person said. And at least one other person said they had a similar experience to Fontes. "I stopped after about two weeks. The pain was terrible," they said.
For the record: Fontes replied to the comments in her own post, vouching for her weighted hula hoop, regardless of the bruising it caused her. "GUYS IT WORKSSSS but wear layers of clothes or some people are saying a corset to avoid bruising," she wrote.
The general consensus for weighted hula hoops is similar to the interactions on Fontes' TikTok video—some people claim they're magic for getting a toned torso; others, like Fontes, say they can cause injury, including a hernia and severe bruising. It all raises a huge question: Are weighted hula hoops safe to use? Here's what experts want you to know.
First: What’s a weighted hula hoop?
There are a bunch of different weighted hula hoops out there, but the concept is the same for all of them: It's a heavier-than-normal hula hoop, which is meant to work your core and burn calories as you swing it around your waist.
Actual weights vary by hula hoop, but many fall squarely into the two- to three-pound range.
Some of them make some pretty outrageous claims—this one on Amazon, which is nearly sold out, says you'll burn "60,000 calories" by using its device for 20 minutes. (FYI: The Mayo Clinic says women burn about 165 calories for 30 minutes of weighted hula hooping.) Another company on Amazon claims its hoop will help you "maintain a good mood every day."
So, are weighted hula hoops safe?
Doctors say a lot depends on your fitness level when you start using it. "Assuming the hoop is a 'safe' weight of under two pounds, the risk of internal injury seems exceptionally low," Lewis Nelson, MD, professor and chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and chief of service in the emergency department at University Hospital, tells Health.
Most injuries that have been reported involve the abs or lower back muscles and "are related to the movements performed during exercise—not as much due to the weight," Dr. Nelson says. But, he points out, "greater weights however may require more forceful movements, which may result in injury." Those forceful movements could potentially lead to injury of the tissues around certain internal organs like your kidneys, he says.
In most cases, it's more likely that you'll get bruising to your skin and body fat "from the friction and weight of the hoop," Cedric Dark, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, tells Health. And, he says, if you're in pain or become injured from your weighted hula hoop, you probably want to ease up on using it.
How can you safely use a weighted hula hoop?
Ease into it. "Start with a low-weight or unweighted hoop and escalate once your physical condition allows," Dr. Nelson says. "Starting slow and increasing as your tolerance develops, just like with any exercise, is a tried and true practice."
Seriously, it's important to take it easy at first.. "Don't overdo it," Dr. Dark warns. "I have seen people who start new vigorous work out plans as New Year's resolutions and get things like muscle strains or even a dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis. It happens every year," he says. Many hula hoop companies recommend using their product for just five minutes at a time—and it's a good idea to stick with that timeframe, at least at first until you get used to it.
If you get overly out of breath, have chest pain, or any other pain issues, stop using it and talk to your doctor, Dr. Nelson says.
Keep this in mind, too, per Doug Sklar, NSCA-CPT, NASM-PES, personal trainer and founder of New York City-based fitness training studio PhilanthroFIT: There are better ways to tone your midsection. "Unless you have a strong affinity for hula hooping, it's very low on my list of recommended exercises," he tells Health.
Instead, he recommends doing HIIT workouts and planks, along with "a head-to-toe strength training program, paired with sound nutritional choices."
If you really want to see what all the weighted hula hoop hype is about, that's OK—just go slow and listen to your body. "If it hurts, stop," Sklar says. "Exercise should not cause pain. If it does, there's a good chance you're doing it incorrectly."
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