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Hooping It Up -- The New Fitness Trend

New America Media, News Feature, Crystal Carter Posted: Nov 04, 2009

Michelle Obama, the youngest first lady since 31-year-old Jacqueline Kennedy, is 45 and Americas new embodiment of health and femininity. Obama was photographed hula hooping on the White House South Lawn to promote physical fitness at the Healthy Kids Fair last week. She also double-dutched and completed an obstacle course.

Hooping is a strong symbol of health and power, said Cressie Mae Akin, 22, a hooping enthusiast and freelance hoopmaker. Some people think that its just a toy from childhood, but its so much more.

Akin has been hooping as long as she can remember and notes the growing popularity of the holistic art form.

The pill hype has died down and I see that women are tired of dieting, says Akin. "Fitness is definitely a more logical approach.

Hooping is known to strengthen and tone your core, improve balance, provide a cardio workout, and build self-esteem. For women, its hard to not feel good about yourself while hooping because your natural beauty really shines through, said Akin.

Akin discovered the hooping community while taking a circus course in her hometown of Brewster, N.Y. She discovered a very supportive network of hoopers, who she says range from circus hippies to mothers to students, teachers and fashion designers.

Hooping is addictive, said Akin. I liked it so much that I started ordering supplies to make my own.

Akins hoops are decked in colorful tapes that range in color and style. In addition to her glittery purple, white, and silver hoops, she has one that is reggae-inspired (black, yellow, red and green). She also makes pairs of hoops that can be used by the arms, which are thinner and smaller.

She plans on organizing hoop-making sessions where she will invite a group of prospective hoopmakers over to teach them how to build original hoops of their own.

The poly tubing usually used for irrigation is ideal for hula-hoops, says Akin. Tubing usually comes in 100-foot coils, and can be found at irrigation supply stores, and at some Home Depot and Lowes retailers. Prices range from $15-$25 per 100 feet, enough to make eight hoops. You connect the hoops by fusing them together using heat from a blow dryer or hot water and then adding a connector made of plastic. Hoop makers also use tape to add candy-cane-like stripes, and the tape can be ordered from a website called identi-tape.com.

Other forms of hoops are known as fire hoops, where fire is vented from a number of holes in the tube and the LED (Light Emitting Diode) hoop - a hoop that emits bright fluorescent color lights that is visually stunning to the viewer.

Hoops can also be made from metal, wood or vines. In ancient Egypt, over 3,000 years ago, children would fashion circles made from dried grape vines, swing them around their waists, roll them on the ground and toss them to each other. There is also a Native American hoop dance known for storytelling, used in a festival that takes place every year.

A growing subculture of hula hoopers is expanding in range and popularity. Some hoopers have adopted a hooping dance form, which interprets forms of rhythmic gymnastics, hip-hop, freestyle dance, fire dance, twirling and other dance and movement forms. A feature documentary, called The Hooping Life, consists of intimate video blogs by hoopers (they also call themselves hoop-dancers), who claim that the art form has saved their life. A hippie jam band, String Cheese Incident, throws hoops out into the crowd at their shows. Even the virtual world game system, Wii Fit, has hopped on the hooping bandwagon, and some at-risk youth are using them along with fitness gurus and modern circus dancers.

Once you learn how to make your own hoop its going to be with you for life, said Akin. Its like your own personal dance partner.

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