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Out of the Box: Hula Hoop Dancing

Think effective workouts are all sweat and no play? Think again. We’ve scoured the city for the most innovative workouts to reboot your fitness game—just in time for summer.

By Cherry Lai
July 29, 2021

Had enough of slogging away yet again on the treadmill or in the weight room? Us too. While we have nothing against tried-and-true traditional workouts, sometimes a heavy dose of fun is just the thing to snap us out of our fitness funk, inspire us to get our sweat on, and most importantly, keep at it. Luckily, there have been plenty of exciting alternatives popping up around town to help shake up our workout routines. From boxing in the dark to channelling your inner crab, join us as we try out four of Hong Kong’s most out-of-the-box workouts, which blend novelty with cutting-edge technology and innovative techniques. The best part? You’ll have a blast while doing them. 


Photo: Turning Circles

In 2010, US-born Emma Brown was gifted a hula hoop as a wedding present from a fire hoop performer and dear friend. Little did she know that a decade later, her passion for this familiar, light-hearted toy would be parlayed into a career. “I moved to Hong Kong in 2013 and searched for similar group classes and workshops I’d attended in Thailand and Melbourne, but was disappointed to find nothing,” she says. “I saw that as an opportunity to start a meetup group, and was shortly contacted by people looking for classes and performers. I realised then that there was a gap in the market that I could fill.” 

With research showing that hula hooping burns up to seven calories a minute—not to mention vastly boosting cardiovascular fitness and strengthening core muscles—it’s no surprise that the activity is catching on. Soon after, Brown took the plunge, quit her day job (which she calls “the best decision I’ve ever made”), and founded Turning Circles, where she now teaches adults and children her distinctive brand of hula hoop workout that fuses elements of yoga and dance. “It’s a super-fun, creative form of exercise,” enthuses Brown.  

Photo: Turning Circles

In class, students are taught various tricks or ways to move with the hula hoop (many handmade by Brown herself), which are then combined to form a flow. “It’s great for toning your core and shoulders,” she says. “While a mild cardio workout, it takes quite a lot of concentration and hand-eye coordination, so becomes quite meditative. Anyone can do it—young, old, fit, flabby, you name it!” 

Having just welcomed her second child earlier this year, Brown is focusing on hosting private and small-group classes around Sai Kung, where she resides, but looks forward to returning to teach larger groups, perform at parties, and spread the word about this atypical workout that will have you looking great and feeling even better. “My students say they enjoy it because it takes so much focus that you forget you’re even exercising. It’s so fun you’re sure to be smiling through your workout.”