Have you ever seen a magnetic fitness hula hoop? Y’know, they come in a box that weighs about five pounds? It’s the one with the picture of a smiling woman rocking her six-pack abs with a giant, bumpy plastic hoop on the front. I’ve seen products like it ever since picking up my first hoop in 2011. I’ve peered curiously at the ads and marveled at their promises to burn “100 calories in 10 minutes”. Whenever I imagined trying one, however, I’d think about how much it would hurt when I inevitably dropped it on my toe, or whacked myself in the nose. I must admit that I’ve continued to feel the pull of magnetic fitness hoops though. I’ve ended up returning to that box on the shelf repeatedly. And questions have continued to loom in the back of my mind – “Do those magnets really make that much of a difference?” “What’s up with the supposed massage effect?” “Do they even work?” With a degree in Exercise Science and a need to leave no question unanswered, I decided it was time to finally solve this mystery for all of us.
I want to begin with what really sets these apart from standard adult-sized dance hoops and other types of fitness hoops: the magnets. These special hoops operate on the idea of biomagnetism, which claims that exposure to a static magnetic field can increase the rate of cellular respiration. So magnets make you break down more fuel, use more calories, and speed up weight loss, right? Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. Unable to find any conclusive proof that magnets actually assist in weight loss online, I decided to venture deep into the world of academic research.
The idea of biomagnetism and weight loss has not been widely researched. In fact, I found just one recent experiment that directly addressed this issue. The researchers found that long-term exposure to a static magnetic field could lead to a decrease in body weight in mice, which was attributed to a suppressed food intake. So perhaps these magnetic hoops can increase weight loss through a mechanism of simply eating less. This is where an important distinction must be made though. In the research, the mice were exposed to a magnetic field all day long. Due to the weight of these hoops, using them for an extended amount of time, like more than ten minutes a day, is not recommended. Taking that into consideration, I do not think we can say that using these hoops provides enough adequate exposure to magnets to warrant the effects of appetite suppression.
Even if the magnets are ineffective, however, burning “100 calories in 10 minutes” sounds pretty tempting. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), however, a choreographed hoop fitness class with a standard adult-sized dance hoop can burn about 7 calories a minute. This is obviously below the advertised 10 calories per minute claimed by using the magnetic hoop. For said claim to be true, using these magnetic hoops would have to qualify as vigorous physical activity. That would mean most people should only be able to speak in short bursts while using the hoop, with heart rates somewhere between 70 and 85 percent of their maximal. While this may be true for some, for most of us they would be working at a lower level of intensity, meaning the calorie-torching benefits would be lessened, so it doesn’t really add up.
Not only do the benefits not seem to be there, there may be some drawbacks to using a magnetic fitness hula hoop as well. While they call attention to the massaging effect, many people report discomfort and bruising from the weight and design of these hoops, beyond what occurs from standard hoop bruising. For novice hoopers or people trying it out for the first time, this can potentially be very discouraging, maybe even reducing their likelihood to continue. Believe it or not, being repeatedly covered in painful bruises might chase some people away rather than bring them into the community. Our community of hoopers is a very encouraging one, and we think hooping should be a positive experience for everyone who takes the first steps to try it out.
Another drawback would be the amount of time that you can actually use these hoops. Most fitness hoops that weigh a few pounds or more come with a warning not to use them for more than ten minutes a day. While they might seem great for whittling the waist, the amount of time spent in actual exercise is rather minimal, not to mention laborious. Using an adult-sized dance hoop that weighs less than 2 pounds, however, allows you not only to exercise longer, but to be able to do much more than waist hooping. It’s also a hell of a lot more fun, too.
So, the promises of magnetic hoops and the realities seem to be at opposite poles. The magnets do not seem to rev up the body’s metabolism as promised, and the claims of calories burned are higher than what currently available research shows. However, moving your body a little is better than not moving your body at all. I respect magnetic hula hoops because they are an avenue to bring people into our happy hooping family, even if they are covered in bruises. And, ultimately, we’re delighted to see you in arrive in our circle, no matter what your hoop looks like.
What do you think? Have you ever used a magnetic hoop? If so, let us know about your experience in the comments below!
You can tell Caitlin Freeman is a hooper just by looking at her car. There are rolls of duct tape in the trunk, a satchel full of her favorite hoops in the back seat, and some stray connectors rolling around on the floor somewhere. She picked up the hoop in 2011, and she has yet to put it down. Hooping provided her with an outlet to explore her personality and to fall in love with movement. A full-time fitness instructor, Caitlin lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She’s on Facebook.