How about an exercise that's easy, pleasant and costs $30 for what looks a lot like the hula hoop you played with as a kid — but heavier?

Terri Stefanson of Medford saw the device on TV and bought one on a lark, but the sports hoop has worked wonders in trimming down her figure, she says.

Stefanson, 51, had run the treadmill five days a week and done a weight-training class twice a week, but she was "treading water," unable to lose 20 pounds in preparation for a trip to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

The hoop quickly helped her turn things around. She lost 10 pounds the first month, dropped her body fat from 28.9 percent to 19.1 percent in two months and won a contest, to boot.

"It blew me away. I won the Fit to Fat contest at Superior Athletic Club," she says. "Ten more pounds and I'll be at my high school weight."

Here's how the sports hoop works: It weighs 3 pounds and is coated with stiff foam. It provides momentum for the body to pull against and traction so it will stick to your body, says Stefanson.

To research the many brands, she advises going to www.hooping.org. Her colorful hoop, which she assembled from curved segments, came from Sports Hoop in California. In Oregon, they're made by Canyon Hoops, she says, and come in weights of 1.5, 3, 4 and 5 pounds.

Once she made progress with the hoop, Stefanson turned co-workers at Medford's Windermere Van Vleet & Associates onto it, and they report similar results.

"Oh, my God, it's awesome, when I can get it away from my wife," says Michael O'Grady. "It's a total workout. I'm already seeing results with the love handles. I've shrunk my waist an inch in two weeks."

O'Grady works out five minutes in the morning and longer at nights while watching TV. Stefanson does a half-hour a day.

O'Grady, who has a vertebral disc problem, notes, "I can really tell the difference. It's given me strength and has improved my golf swing."

The sports hoop can feel awkward at first, until your body learns how to keep it going — and can feel "like it's beating you up" — but, says Stefanson, things soon fall into a rhythm, and the pounds start falling off.

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