Spring is just around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to kiss this winter goodbye – it’s been a brutal cold season for many. Even so, I managed to make it through cold season relatively unscathed, as did other hoopers I know. I traveled during the winter, and was surrounded by sickies on planes, in the family and in classes. My fiancé and toddler both caught a very nasty cold recently, right as we were moving – ugh! I managed to remain healthy throughout all of this. After moving in, we all got hit with a second cold and I did have a few days of illness, but they were very mild and the cold moved on pretty quickly. I began to wonder if there could possibly be a link between hooping and the immune system. My curiosity piqued, inspiring me to do a bit of research, and as it turns out, there are immune boosting benefits to hooping – will wonders never cease?! It is, of course, widely known that regular exercise in general can help boost the immune system, but I found a few other factors of hooping that provide additional strengthening in our ability to ward of illness.
Looking into the relationship between regular, aerobic exercise and the immune system, Sports medicine consultant Elizabeth Quinn writes,
Moderate exercise has been linked to a positive immune system response and a temporary boost in the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. It is believed that regular, consistent exercise can lead to substantial benefits in immune system health over the long-term.
More recent studies have shown that there are physiological changes in the immune system as a response to exercise. During moderate exercise immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. After exercise ends, the immune system generally returns to normal within a few hours, but consistent, regular exercise seems to make these changes a bit more long-lasting.
Specifically in reference to hooping, the Lance Armstrong Foundation has noted that if you can keep your hoop going for more than 10 minutes, you can reap the immune boosting benefits that the aerobic nature of hooping can provide. Think about what 30 minutes can do! I’m just sayin’ people…
Another way that hooping helps your defense system is by stimulating lymphatic circulation and drainage. KaRa Maria Ananda of HoopAlchemy.com does a beautiful job of illustrating this in an article from her blog. In reference to core hooping she writes,
The hoop provides a gentle, rhythmic massage that stimulates lymphatic flow resulting in increased circulation, cellular detox, weight loss, and increased immunity.
The lymphatic system is a primary part of our tri fold circulatory system. It is responsible for waste collection, immunity, waste processing, and cell transport throughout the body.
Over 50% of our bodies lymphatic glands are in the belly, around the intestines. The next most concentrated area of lymphatic tissue is the sides of the chest, under the arms. Then there are lymphatic glands in the femoral or bikini area. Also around the neck, throat, and shoulders where the lymph drains into the body’s two main lymph ducts. It is perfect synchronicity that the lymphatic system may be wonderfully massaged by core hooping. … a regular hoop practice will help keep your lymphatic system functioning at it’s prime and keep sickness at bay!
Regular meditation has also been credited with boosting immunity, so the meditative nature of hooping positively impacts the immune system in yet another way as well.
Lastly, I found a very interesting way in which hooping can benefit the immune system: through stimulating the thymus gland during chest opening movements accompanied by deep breathing. Jeff Migdow, M.D. writes, “Located in the chest, the thymus gland is the locus of the immune system. Thus both the thymus gland and the immune system are stimulated by any posture in which we open the chest and breathe deeply into it.” He is referring to Yoga postures, but you know what I’m thinking, don’t you? Chest hooping! He recommends practicing the chest opening posture while intentionally breathing deeply into it to stimulate the thymus.
Keep in mind that research indicates that exercising while sick doesn’t do your immune system any favors – it puts additional strain on your weakened body and can even be quite dangerous for women specifically, as “flu-like symptons” can be an early sign of heart attack in women. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, “71% of women report flu-like symptoms for two weeks to a month prior to having more acute chest discomfort or severe shortness of breath.” If you’re not feeling well, take a hooping break and give your body the rest it needs to fight that cold.
If you’re hooping regularly, you may already be experiencing the immune boosting benefits of hooping – keep up the good work and your body will continue to reward you! If your hooping practice is a bit erratic on the other hand, here is yet another reason to make hooping a more regular occurrence in your life. There’s always room for more in our Daily Practice forum.
To your health,
Rayna McInturf began hooping in 2000 and co-moderates Hooping.org’s Hooping Instructors and California Hoopers groups and online forums. She was voted Female Hooper of the Year in 2008 by Hooping.org readers and you can visit her website at www.ihooponline.com. You can find out more about her in our recent interview: Rayna McInturf: Life After Hoopnotica.