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      Hula hooping: More than just hip shaking, it can help your heart

      Courtesy: The Hulagans

      Hula hooping isn TMt just for kids anymore. More and more adults are picking up the childhood toy and using it for exercise.

      For the first time a study looked at the benefits of hula hooping.

      Researchers from the American Council on Exercise discovered it improves cardiovascular health, muscle tone and flexibility.

      The study found doing the hip-shaking exercise for an hour burned an average of 420 calories . That TMs similar to what you would lose in boot camp-style classes, step aerobics and cardio kickboxing.

      "It was nice to see it did elicit a burn that was similar to many common exercise routines," said Stephen Horney, of NY Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy.

      Some people credit hula hooping for helping them drop lots of weight.

      "Most people are like 'hula hoping can that really help you lose weight?' You know I lost 70 pounds hula hooping," said Gabriella Redding, an avid hula hooper.

      Horney said the fact that hula hooping is fun adds to its exercise appeal.

      "It's very important to find as many ways as we can find to exercise because there is a strong correlation between interest and enjoyment and actual commitment to an exercise program," Horney explained.

      In Mid-Missouri, there is a way for you to hop into the hula hooping fun. A group called The Hulagans gathers frequently in the area.

      It is a great, low-impact source of activity. It's challenging, but not so much that you are easily deterred, said Lois Bennett. She TMs one of the organizing members of The Hulagans.

      Bennett said she didn TMt get into hula hooping for the exercise, but she can definitely feel and see the difference.

      You definitely can't help exercising when doing it. Some of the Hulagans have lost quite a bit of weight doing it, Bennett said. I think people are really surprised when they try it by just how much of a cardio workout they get. You tire quickly in the beginning.

      Besides physical health benefits, the hula hooper said the activity can have an impact on your mental health.

      A person can enter a sort of meditative state, actually called 'flow' while doing it, Bennett described. It's relaxing, builds self confidence, and creates a better self image and general sense of well being.

      This Sunday, April 3 the group will be in Jefferson City at the Masters TM Gardens and Pavilion. The event is free and kid friendly. Check out the event details on Facebook here . They TMll also be in Columbia the following Sunday, April 10. They'll also continue switching up locations between Columbia and Jefferson City through the fall.

      If you can TMt make it to the event, but still want to take a crack at hooping, here are some tips you can try at home .

      For a fee, you can take a hula hoop class in Jefferson City. Work it, Girl Dance Fitness offers hula hoop classes and other types of non-conventional exercises, like Zumba.

      Hula hooping doesn TMt come natural to everyone, but Bennett said that shouldn TMt stop you from trying.

      Even if people are struggling when they first try, it's not always as easy as they remember it being. They laugh. A lot. And even if they get nothing else from it, they get laughter, and isn TMt that the best medicine?

      Hula hooping dates back thousands of years to Egypt and Greece when people made hoops from grapevines and used them for exercise.

      Would you consider doing hula hooping as a form of exercise? Or do you already do it? Let us know your thoughts, tips, and techniques by commenting below and voting in our online poll.