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Chapel Hill hula-hooping class gives participants 'second childhood'

Woman finds hooping helps her osteoporosis

Stella Finkelstein (left) and Jennifer Egan participate in the first hoop dancing class held at the Chapel Hill Community Center on Sunday.
Stella Finkelstein (left) and Jennifer Egan participate in the first hoop dancing class held at the Chapel Hill Community Center on Sunday.

More than two years ago, Pam Theobold’s doctor told her she was about ready to break a hip.

Theobold, who suffers from advanced osteoporosis, said she didn’t want to take medication to manage her condition.

Instead, she took up hooping — a type of exercise that combines hula-hoops and dance moves to give the entire body a workout

When it was time for her next check up, Theobold learned her anti-drug was working. She hadn’t lost any additional bone mass in her hips or back.

“My doctor said I have the wrist bones of a 35-year-old, and I’m 59,” she said.

Taking advantage of the area’s interest in hooping, Theobold now teaches a hula-hoop class at the Chapel Hill Community Center Gym.

She held a free demo as her first class Sunday.

Chapel Hill resident Stella Finkelstein was one of the first-time hoopers that attended Sunday’s class.

“This is my first time. I’m kind of nervous,” Finkelstein said before the class began. “I have no idea what it’s going to be.”

As students arrived, Theobold handed out hoops and turned up the pop music.

“Always when you’re hooping, turn on the music and try to move your feet,” Theobold said.

Students mirrored Theobold’s hoop moves as she shouted out words of encouragement and showed off her more advanced techniques.

Jennifer Egan, another student, said she enjoyed the class.

“I moved to Carrboro, so I figured I should learn to hula-hoop,” said Egan, alluding to the activity’s unusual popularity in the town.

Theobold, who was living in Ohio when she discovered hooping, said she moved to Pittsboro in August 2009 and found a large population of hoop dancers in the area.

She first taught herself to hoop by watching YouTube videos.

Theobold said she went in search of a hooping class at her local YMCA in Ohio only to find it didn’t offer one. Staff suggested she start her own.

“We all learned together,” she said. “There were about nine students.”

Theobold said she quickly fell in love with the activity and couldn’t picture her life without it.

“Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and say, ‘I wonder if I can do that with a hoop’”, she said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Hoop dancing offers participants more than just a good time. Theobold said it’s possible to burn up to 60 calories in just five minutes while hooping.

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“Not only do you get the endorphins from exercise, but there’s something more,” she said.

“A lot of women say they threw away all their antidepressants when they started hooping.”

Theobold’s husband, Dave, also hoops and said Carrboro provides multiple opportunities to hoop dance including weekly hoop jams and a flowjo — open hooping space — that is scheduled to start up in about a month.

“There are an infinite number of hoop moves because you can put them together in different ways,” he said. “Even a beginner can make up a new move.

“A lot of mistakes turn into new moves.”

Dave Theobold encouraged beginners to try out his wife’s class and said her homemade hoops, made of irrigation tubing, connectors and athletic tape, are available for purchase at the classes.

“It’s like a second childhood,” Pam Theobold said.

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