Norfolk folk urged to hula hoop their way to fitness

Who would have thought the humble childhood hula hoop would become the next latest fitness craze to hit our gyms?

Not only does the exercise have celebrity fans in the form of global singing superstar Beyonce and Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, but even US First Lady Michelle Obama has spoken of the health benefits of the hip-gyrating workout.

Now hula hooping is spreading throughout Norfolk with at least one fitness instructor about to launch classes in Sprowston, Hethersett, Attleborough and Watton from January following a successful set of trial classes earlier this year.

Instructor Linda Mellor-Steedman, 52, from Lyng, near Norwich, said people were already putting their names down for the New Year classes.

'I was amazed. I did a trial run of three five-week courses and thought they would either love it or hate it. I think I only lost one person, which is a really good sign,' she said.

'I have been teaching for more than 20 years. You name it, I have done it all. Earlier this year I felt this was the right thing to do. A friend does it and said how popular it was in America and she predicted it would be big over here.'

The hula hoop – as we know it – was invented in the 1950s when its creators sold more than 100 million of the children's toys within the first two years of production. However, there is evidence of hoops made from grapevines and staff grasses similarly being used back in ancient Egyptian and Greek times.

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Today its rocketing popularity has been aided thanks the game console Wii Fit where players are encouraged to lose weight through swinging their hips with a virtual hula hoop.

Regular use is said to build core strength and improve posture, flexibility and co-ordination. It tones the entire body while aiding weight loss (one minute of hooping can burn as many calories as running an eight-minute mile). It has also been hailed as a way of focusing the mind and building self-confidence.

Mrs Mellor-Steedman said: 'You get quite a workout from just doing the basics. If you did it for 10 minutes a day, you could see quite a lot of changes.

'To begin with everyone was dropping it but now 15 weeks in they are starting to string together moves to create routines. People see it as something you do around your waist, but there's so much more. You can spin it on your arm, your hand, you can jump through it.

'There are hundreds of moves you can do with it. I think I'll be learning it for the rest of my life.'

Hula hooper Patricia Payne, 54, from Lakenham, said not only was the nostalgic exercise fun, but it has cured her frozen shoulder.

'It was just something different. It just appealed to me. I did it as a child and I wanted to see if I could still do it,' she said.

'I had a frozen right shoulder. It was really painful and I could not raise it over my head. But I've gone through the pain barrier and this (hula hooping) has made it supply. It's a lot better.'

Hula hoop workout classes will be taking place from January on Mondays at Sprowston Junior School, Tuesdays at Hethersett High School, Wednesdays at Attleborough Sports Hall and Thursdays at the Wells Cole Centre, Saham Toney, near Watton.

For more information, call Linda Mellor-Steedman on 01603 872664 or visit www.bodyworkout.biz