Pretty much everyone who pays a bit of attention to the news (or food shows on basic cable) knows that first lady Michelle Obama wants to get Americans to slim down with healthy food and more exercise, as part of her "Let's Move" campaign


Judging from her arms, she's no slouch at the gym herself, but who knew she was so into hula hooping? President Barack Obama says his wife Michelle "is the best hula-hoopers I know. Once she gets the rhythm going, she can drop it to her knees."


According to information from Hoopnotica, a company that promotes hula hooping as a full-body exercise, “Hooping compares pretty favorably with most other group classes, in terms of heart rate and calorie burn.” says John Porcari, Ph.D. FCSM, who executed the study to determine the effectiveness of hooping as a workout.


Porcari also suggests that hooping should be “considered a total-body workout that has the potential to improve your flexibility and balance while strengthening and toning the muscles of the back, abdomen, arms and legs.”


I am a hooper myself — and let me tell you, it's much more than just the easily-mastered kids' pastime of spinning the plastic hoop around your waist or neck. These days, a hula hoop can be used for the total body workout as mentioned above. I especially like to use it to improve my arm muscles (which def aren't as enviable as the first lady's!), since I do a lot of lower-body exercise, but struggle to get my arms stronger. 


And if you think twirling a hoop around your wrists, fingers, and forearms, or jumping through hoops and using the hoop as a dancing prop (just some of the variations hoop dancing entails) is child's play, I'm here to tell you that my first hoop class, at Wanderlust in Vermont this past summer, left me sweaty, laughing and definitely sore the next day — mostly in my arms and core. 


And yes, it burns calories (and is great fun to do outside, if you are looking for fun activities to do in your backyard). According to research conducted by The American Council of Exercise (ACE), “Researchers determined that hooping burns an average of seven calories per minute for a total of about 210 calories during a 30-minute hooping workout.”


If I can get anywhere close to the litheness of Michelle Obama's arms, I'm willing to try it. 


Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Michelle Obama's fave exercise? Hooping!
Want a waist like first lady Michelle Obama? Try hooping. Judging from her arms, she's no slouch at the gym herself, but who knew she was so into hula hooping?