When I was a kid, I loved everyone’s favorite 50s fad toy made famous by the Wham-O company, the hula hoop. I could swirl that hoop around my hips forever, listening to the beads inside rattle with every rotation. Mine broke when I tried to roll it down the driveway, hoping to boomerang it back to myself. Instead, it crashed into the station wagon and bent in half.

Today, another sort of hoopla is circling the nation. The fad is coming back, only the hoop is a little different. It’s designed for adults — bigger, weighted and more sturdy — and unlike pole dancing, this fitness craze is going to last. Not just because you can take it with you and do it with your kids, but because hooping is an easy fitness phenomenon that’s putting fun back into workout routines.

Diana Lopez started her company, BodyHoops, after discovering the benefits of hooping while recovering from an injury in 2002. Today she sells a variety of colorful hoops and offers classes and play groups to adults and kids in Ojai and Ventura. In her DVD, Hoop Dance Fusion, released in 2005, Lopez calls hooping “ … a more balanced approach to body conditioning.” That’s because this all-encompassing conditioning program incorporates exercise, meditation, dance and play. And it’s effective; a hooper can burn 100 calories in just 10 minutes.

The basics are fun and easy to learn. Lopez calls this one the grounded ab flex: just place one foot forward, move your torso in a circular motion with the hoop rotating around your waist, and shift your weight from one foot to the other. Not only are you working your core muscles, since you’re always moving from your center, but because they are constantly in motion, your legs get a great workout, too. And with your arms raised throughout the routine, they also get a pretty good burn.

As you move beyond the fundamentals, you will learn to shift the movement of the hoop down to your knees and hips and up to your chest, neck and hands, making this a true head-to-toe workout. And with some entertaining dance steps worked into the choreography along with some funky music, you will have so much fun you will completely forget you are exercising.

So pick up a hoop and get in the loop. Just don’t try to roll this one down the driveway!

For more information, go to www.BodyHoops.com or www.hooping.org.

Always consult a physician before starting a new fitness regimen.