In a day and age when most gyms seem to offer as many workouts and fitness classes as the types of exercise equipment on their weight room floor, it can be easy to forget that physical activity does inherently need to be specialized. For all the boutique fitness brands growing across the country, some of the best ways to stay active are the ones that people learned when they were kids playing on the playground at school.

One Detroit resident knows this well and is working hard to help remind others, according to an article this week from Model D Media, which tells the story of Bernadette King’s hula hoop workout program. Story author Nina Ignaczak detailed all the fun and fitness King fosters in the Motor City, writing:

King, a 29-year veteran of the Henry Ford Health System where she coordinates special projects, first brought her love of hooping to others a decade ago as part of a “recess at work” program.

And people liked it so much, she decided to bring a whole “hula hoop troupe” out to the Metro Detroit Heart and Stroke walk in 2011, along with bubbles, music, and her infectious laugh. The walkers jumped in to try it out and enjoyed it so much that King’s hula hoop troupe has been invited back to the walk every year. 

In the past several months, King has brought her hula hoop (and bubbles) to the Market on the Ave in Detroit’s Live 6 neighborhood on Saturdays, where she actively looks to engage the local community and get them hooping.

“I teach people to hula hoop, and it’s so exciting for them,” says King. “So many people come up to me saying, ‘Wow, I’d like to, but I can’t.’ ” King usually proves them wrong. 

King received a grant this year from the city’s Civic Commons Community Catalyst (C4) Program to make and distribute hula hoops to the community. To manufacture the hoops, she follows instructions on YouTube and adds her own special design.

When she and the troupe go out, King carries a range of hoop sizes with her to accommodate everyone’s body type. Most everyone can hula hoop, she says, but getting the right size hoop makes a huge difference. It’s important for those wishing to try the sport to be fitted correctly, which, she says, is a matter of trial and error.  

And although it may seem like a bit like a lark, King is quick to point out that there are real fitness benefits to hula hooping. 

“The main benefit is you can strengthen your core,” she says. “Once you strengthen your core, then that means your posture is better. And once your posture is straight, that’s the key. That’s one of the main elements of good health.”

The colloquial phrase “no need to reinvent the wheel” usually applies to methodology, but using this iconic circular piece of plastic beloved to kids spanning numerous generations is still a great way to burn calories, build friendships and have fun.

To read Ignaczak’s full writeup, click here.