WINTHROP — Some local adults are rediscovering the art, joy and other benefits of play inside plastic hula hoops.

A group varying between five and 15 mostly adults have been gathering for the last seven Sundays in Winthrop to hula hoop together, rediscovering — or in some cases discovering for the first time — the fun to be found spinning the round objects around their waists, an activity that seems to be making a comeback after past stints of popularity as a childhood toy.

Faith Benedetti, organizer of the group, said she couldn’t successfully hula hoop when she was a kid. She first learned how to do it successfully at 48 and has been hooked ever since.

“As an adult, when I started to hula hoop, I felt like I was 12 years old,” she said. “I feel like, as an adult, we don’t have enough opportunities to play with other people.”

The group, which regularly hoops together at the Winthrop Middle School gymnasium, grew out of an informal “hula hoop jam” held on Friday evenings at Norcross Point, also in Winthrop, on the shores of Maranacook Lake. Benedetti said 300 people participated over the course of this past summer.

She said Winthrop Recreation officials saw how popular the program was and offered Benedetti indoor space for six weeks over the winter, later extending it to nine weeks, as part of the “Winthrop Plays Outside” initiative.

A few kids have come with their parents, but most of the participants have been adults.

“My girlfriend made me. Well, encouraged me, I should say,” a smiling Bill Sullivan, of Readfield, said when asked how and why he started hooping with the group. “It’s good exercise. Especially for a big guy like me.”

Sullivan, one of two men in Sunday’s group of eight hoopers, said he hula hooped as a kid, and he was pretty good, too. Until joining the group in Winthrop this year, it had probably been 25 years since he spun a hula hoop around his waist.

He said it took about a half-hour after all those years to be able to successfully spin a hula hoop around his body again. Sunday he had two hoops spinning around his midsection at the same time.

The Winthrop group is one of a growing number of adult hula hooping groups, with the activity seeming to be making a resurgence.

Karol Worden, of Winthrop, said she hula hooped as a kid, but she wasn’t very good at it. She said she was a little dubious when a friend suggested she try it again as an adult. But she tried it and said it is “a blast.”

She said her first time trying to hoop as an adult was spent primarily picking it back up and trying again. But she took one of Benedetti’s roughly 50 hula hoops home to practice and now, she said, “I do alright.”

She said it is enjoyable to do something with others and not have to worry how good you are at it. She also said it is good exercise, especially if you hoop for the entire hour-and-a-half-long session.

Participants have ranged in age from three to 75. Between five and 15 people have come to one or more of the eight sessions so far. One more is planned from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 6, in the gym at Winthrop Middle School.

Noel Scott, of Monmouth, wasn’t even born yet when hula hooping had what was perhaps its previous peak of popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

She did try it as a child, but failed to get it spinning around her, which she said was frustrating.

She was spinning it around her midsection within 15 minutes or so when she tried it again as an adult.

She said the larger, heavier hula hoops Benedetti makes herself and brings along with a collection of the lighter, commercially-available ones are much easier to use.

Benedetti said the larger hoops are made from bendable plumbing tubing filled with water to add weight and wrapped in duct tape for grip. She agreed they are easier to use than the smaller commercial ones.

Benedetti said no one who has tried to hoop with the group has not been successful at it. She noted, however, that may not mean spinning the hoop around your body. She said spinning a hula hoop around your hand or other parts of the body other than the waist are also ways to take part in hooping.

Sunday Scott combined hula hooping with her old hobby of baton twirling, something she did from elementary school into high school. She said she initially brought it in to the group’s hooping session as something else to do. But Benedetti was quick to suggest she do both at once. Scott said doing both at once is hard, but can be done if you try not to concentrate too much on one at the expense of the other.

The group has a Facebook page, Friday Night Hula Hoop Jam, and Benedetti hopes to resume outdoor hooping locally when the weather warms up. She suggested people interested in learning more about the activity go online to www.hooping.org.

She said the activity can be different things to different people. She said some consider it exercise, others dance, some meditation, and others just a fun way to get out and play.

She said the group welcomes all abilities, describing it as “hooping for everybody.”

Benedetti said people seem to enjoy the low tech activity at a time when technology increasingly becomes a part of people’s lives.

Worden said she’s not sure why the activity seems to be seeing a resurgence of interest among adults.

“Maybe we’re just at an age where we want to relive that, touch that bit of childhood again,” she said.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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