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The Testy Trainer: The “What I just heard on a Popular Daytime Show” Edition

This seems a little counter to who I am,  but I love reading Southern Living.  Since I’m not a gardener, the column isn’t my favorite, but it’s name has stuck in my head since they launched it:  The Grumpy Gardener.  The guy is witty, but has a bit of a bite.  He pretty well tells it like it is when it comes to mistakes people are making– in a way that’s just polite enough for a magazine. Although I try to set a really positive tone in this blog, sometimes things I hear or see just really frost my cupcakes. Sometimes the health and fitness industry (of which I am admittedly and sometimes ashamedly a part) is feeding people loads of nonsensical garbage in effort to make a quick buck.

I’m not a fan of daytime television, but while I was waiting somewhere the Dr. Oz show was on. He was featuring women who Hula Hooping for Weight Loss? lost 100lbs. Awesome! One talked about carb cycling– which is not bad nutrition advice if it works for you. I can support that. One showed the steel cut oats that helped her always have something ready to eat so she didn’t go through the drive-thru. No prob there either. But I about came out of my seat when one of them said that Hula-hooping burns 600 calories per hour.

Let’s get some things straight:

I couldn’t find an exact match for Hula Hooping in any trusted calorie expenditure database, so I used non-contact dancing. (Differentiated from slow dancing which uh… usually isn’t about burning calories!) It is theoretically possible that you could burn 600 calories per hour IF: 1) You weighed 300 or more pounds 2) You actually danced for 1 solid hour, non-stop. 3) You would really, really shaking what your momma gave you. (You can check out the calorie expenditure chart I use with my clients Here)

Having been 250 pounds, I can tell you that I could barely walk around the block at a snail’s pace much less shake my groove thing for an hour. But it’s possible.

Let’s get the facts straightBefore anyone goes out and buys hula hoops in effort to get your dream body, here’s what Paul Harvey would call “The Rest of the Story.” (And this same information is true for all the gimmicks you see on TV– like that little rocker board thing!)

1) While you might be able to burn that many calories (if you met all three of those conditions) as you started hula-hooping, your body would very quickly adapt. It is very smart and doesn’t want to work any harder than it has to, so every time you do the same thing, your body becomes more and more efficient. That means you burn fewer and fewer calories unless you are pushing yourself more and more.

2) Hula hooping is not developing any lean muscle. Lean muscle is your biggest ally in the battle of the bulge because (pay extra attention here!) muscle burns calories at rest. Muscle is like your engine: the bigger the engine, the more gas you burn. For a 150 pound person with 40% body fat, their BMR (the amount of calories it takes to keep them alive at rest) is 1250. For that same 150 pound person with 20% body fat, their BMR is 1545. That’s a 300 calorie a day difference! The only thing that builds muscle is strength training (when combined with proper nutrition and rest). To make matters worse, this could actually be degrading the lean muscle that a person has– which in turn lowers BMR– which in turn means your body is burning fewer calories throughout the day.

3) For a person carrying some extra weight, hula hooping can be absolutely detrimental. Very often people carrying some extra pounds have poor joint function (due to the extra stress on the joints, and often lack of muscle strength surrounding the joints). Creating this repetitive motion (especially if the person didn’t switch directions as they were hooping) could place a lot of strain on the hips, knees, and ankles.

Could you lose a significant amount of fat by hula hooping? I would say you could lose some weight (but don’t forget– losing weight is not your goal. Losing fat is your goal). You could probably lose a little fat this way. (And probably only if you had been pretty much sedentary.) But could you also sabotage your goals this way? Absolutely!

If you love hula hooping, do it in moderation for the enjoyment of doing it. But if you’re looking to lose lots of weight, invest your time and money somewhere else. (Like a gym membership and session with a trainer!)

If something feels too gimicky to be true, it probably is! Invest your time and money where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck! (Hint: that usually isn’t what you’re seeing on TV or in ads!)


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