Fitness is constantly evolving. Over the past 80 years, we have gone through a variety of fitness phases, some of which laid the foundation for modern-day exercise routines. Let’s take a walk through some of the most popular fitness trends over the decades!
1940s — Stretching
Exercise for women in the 1940s was characterized by stretching. Jumping jacks were adopted by the U.S. army because of the low level of fitness amongst drafted soldiers, sparking this exercise to become popular among men. Jumping jacks and toe-stretches were thought to keep bodies toned and in shape.
1950s – Hula Hoop
The hula hoop was a toy trend that caught fire the moment it hit America. More than 400,000 were sold by 1957! Granted, it was classified as a toy when it first hit stores, but hula hooping for 30 minutes can be a great full-body workout. Nowadays, adults can use a weighted hula hoop as opposed to a plastic one if they want to feel the burn!
1960s – Vibrating Belt
It seemed to be a widespread belief in the ’60s that you could jiggle away unwanted fat. The machine originally gained popularity in the early 1900s, but had a big comeback in the ‘60s. You would loop a wide belt around any area problem area, turn it on and bam! Your fat would magically “melt” off. The vibrations were supposed to mimic a massage. At the time, massages were believed to cure fatigue, remove toxins, increase muscle tone and improve circulation. No sweat, no problem! Except that it did not really work. People eventually came to realize this, and the vibrating belt faded away.
1970s – Jazzercise
The ’70s brought in a new, high-intensity form of exercise called Jazzercise, which is still practiced today (although not as widely). Jazzercise is a mix of jazz dance (no surprise there), ballet, Pilates, yoga and kickboxing. The routines are usually set to a popular song of the instructor’s choice. This trend was the beginning of choreographed exercise set to music.
1980s – Aerobics
Aerobics sprung up as a spinoff of Jazzercise. While the two exercises are similar, aerobics is less of a dance routine than Jazzercise. It was originally invented in the ‘60s, but it was not put on the map until Jane Fonda came out with a book and aerobics workout tapes. The dance moves used were mixed in with fitness movements, like elevating knees or marching in place. Aerobics became a workout empire and inspired many different spin-offs, such as water aerobics and step aerobics.
1990s – Tae Bo
Karate master Billy Banks took over the fitness world in the ’90s. He created Tae Bo, a high-intensity cardio workout that combines martial arts, boxing, dancing and hip-hop beats. At the height of its popularity, over 500 million Tae Bo videos were sold.
1990s – Spinning
Johnny Goldberg was a cyclist and personal trainer from South Africa who moved to the United States. One night, he was riding his bike and almost got hit by a passing car. From this scare, he got the idea to move cycling indoors. Goldberg began teaching spinning classes in 1990 and it was the beginning of a workout revolution. With the addition of upbeat music, Soul Cycle was born. Fast forward to modern day where spinning classes can be found at almost every gym.
2000s – Zumba
Building on past dance-inspired workouts, Zumba emerged as a Latin-inspired workout. This fitness style mixes salsa, tango, bachata and flamenco dance styles to upbeat Latin or pop music. Zumba classes can be found in most gyms, and the exercise is popular in 180 countries worldwide.
2010s – CrossFit
CrossFit was born in 2000 by Greg Glassman. Glassman was a gymnast who wanted to get stronger in multiple sports and exercises. CrossFit focuses on conquering obstacles and training the whole body. It is a mixture of gymnastics, weightlifting, pullups and calisthenics. The first CrossFit gym originated in Santa Cruz, California. Now, there are thousands of CrossFit gyms and trainers across the country and a huge community has formed around the fitness trend. There are even athletic competitions focused on the exercise style, like the CrossFit Games and, more locally, The Swamp Challenge.
2020s – HIIT
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. While this type of exercise has been popular for years, it has really taken off in 2020 due to COVID-19. Since gyms shut down for a short amount of time, gym junkies had to figure out how to get their workouts in at home. HIIT is the perfect at-home workout, most of the time calling for no extra weights or equipment. Plus, a lot of HIIT workouts have become available online for free, making them a very affordable way to break a sweat.
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