Back in March 1963, a strange little circular hoop toy was patented by the Wham-O company and its co-founder Arthur “Spud” Melin. Kids had to quickly rotate their hips to keep the hoop circling their waist and were challenged to keep the hoop from falling to the ground. By July of that year, over 25 million hula hoops had been sold in a craze that took off across America, and the world, like a firecracker. Soon, it became more than a kids toy as adults, particularly women, started to use it for its waist whittling and tummy flattening effects.
The hula hoop was patterned after a wooden hoop that Australian kids used in gym class for exercise. Fashioned in lighter plastic though, it was named the “Hula” hoop, after the Hawaiian dance of the same name that also involved rapid hip-gyration movements. It was first tested on southern California playgrounds and soon just about every kid in America were having hula hoop competitions with their friends.
Today, the hula hoop is still a popular toy – and piece of exercise and entertainment equipment. Adults like it for its fitness properties. The action of keeping it circling the waist, or hips, has been found to tighten, tone and diminish inches in those areas as well as burn calories. Kids like it for performing various twirling feats like seeing how long, or fast, they can circle it around the neck, the arms and the legs. There are hula hoop athletic competitions and record holding winners in categories like “most hula hoops twirled at once”, or “longest hula hoop twirling”, or “hula hoop running” where the runner also has to twirl the hoop around their waist while running.
Dancers even use it to perform a “hoopdance” – sometimes with the hoops on fire – or wrapped with colored, black light reflective tapes that accentuate the hoops in the dark. Some even contain battery-operated LED colored lights inside a transparent hoop, colored water, or metallic balls that also make noise while moving. There are even collapsible hula hoops that breakdown and fold sideways for easy of transporting.
Happy 50th birthday, hula-hoop! Keep on rolling along…