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Retro Exercise Trends

Old exercise trends can bring new life to boring workouts.

Exercise should be a part of your daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth and getting dressed, it is important to get your heart pumping. There are those that take the most strenuous route and run miles a day. There are the gym rats that can spend hours lifting weights, stretching and taking a variety of classes. And then there are people that take the path of least resistance and do what comes easiest-walking outside to get the paper, using upper body strength to open the refrigerator or lift the remote. Different strokes for different folks. 

Experts say that exercising three to five times a week is optimal for longevity. The definition of exercise is what is up for debate. According to Merriam-Webster, exercise is, "physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier." Some people use exercise to lose weight, to remain sane, to build muscle and stamina, to rehabilitate...the reasons are endless. But every so often, new exercise trends pop up to keep things interesting. Because, like most things in life, if you do the same thing over and over again, exercise can get quite boring.

Let's take spinning as an example. Johnny Goldberg was a professional cyclist. One night, in the mid-1980's, he was training and was hit by a car. He felt the need to create a way to train on his beloved bike and be safe, so he started to develop an indoor cycling workout. Finally, in 1992, he and his partner, John Baudhuin, manufactured the first trademarked Spin bike and in 1993 the first classes were offered at Crunch Gym in New York. Spinning is an exercise trend that continues to remain popular. The combination of great music, low-impact and high calorie burn seems to make everyone, of all ages, happy.

Not every exercise trend sticks around. Here is a look at workouts of the past that have seemed to either have gone into retirement, or have been brought back in a more modern way. Whatever form of exercise you choose, do what makes you happy, always consult a doctor to make sure it is good for you, work-out to the best of your ability, and don't finish off the day with an ice cream sundae because that will defeat the purpose of your sweat and hard work.

Step Aerobics

In the late 80s and early 90s, every gym had multiple step classes on their schedules. Members would be waiting on line, outside of the studios, in their cute outfits, just to guarantee that they would get a spot for their step in the class. Of course, this was before you could reserve a spot for a class "online." We would shlep the steps that were neatly stacked in the back of the room, some would have two or three risers for an added boost to the workout, some would just use the step, with no additional height. It was the class to take.

According to Wikipedia, step aerobics was developed by Gin Miller. She had injured her knee and an orthopedist recommended that she step up and down on a milk crate to strengthen the muscles that support the knee. Miller took it once step further and the step was born.  Though the popularity has dwindled, perhaps because people have less patience to learn the complicated choreography, perhaps because the newer exercise trends are less aggressive... whatever the reason, most gyms still have an adequate supply of the actual steps, so their is always hope for a rebirth of the stepping trend.

Jane Fonda Workout

Leg warmers? Check. Leotard? Check. Wrist bands? Check. VCR? Check. You are ready for the Jane Fonda Workout. Her iconic video debuted on April 24, 1982 and there was no looking back. The exercises worked each part of the body and if you began to sweat profusely, you knew you were doing it right. Fonda came out with a whole series of videos and each was as popular as the next. These videos, though considered retro, are just as effective in 2016 as they were all those years ago; Getting fit and fabulous never goes out of style-just look how amazing Fonda looks today. 

Since fitness is  a part of who she is, Fonda continues to be an advocate for healthy living. At the young age of 72, she came out with two more videos-Prime Time Walkout and Prime Time Fit & Strong. The videos were designed for the "older set" and there was no getting down on the floor for these exercises. Sitting in a chair, the workout concentrates on strengthening the pelvic muscles. This helps prevent organ prolapse and urinary incontinence which, unfortunately, can come with aging. Fonda saw the need to reach out to her older contemporaries and wanted to send the message of the importance of working out the body and the mind.


Jazzercise has always been a hugely popular form of exercise. Young people like it for the energy, older people like it for the music. Founded back in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett, she opened her first studio in Carlsbad, California. The model of Jazzercise is a 60 minute class that combines dance, kickboxing, yoga and other forms of exercise, set to high energy music. This type of class set the standard for all dance-based aerobics classes to follow, Zumba being one example. In 2015, the company began a whole rebranding initiative with clever tag-lines like, "Breaking 80s barriers" and "Our only throwback is our right hook." 


Do you have a Thighmaster sitting in your basement? Is it still in the box or did you use it to get your thighs in tip-top shape? One of the most popular exercise trends of the 90s, everyone wanted to have a Thighmaster. Or they wanted to look like Suzanne Somers. As the face of the Thighmaster, she became, simultaneously, the butt of many jokes but even more popular than she was before. Marketed by Joshua Reynolds, the heir to the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Thighmaster was a simple invention that, when used properly, produced great results. The construction was two pieces of metal tubes bent into a loop, connected with a hinge. They can now be found at garage sales all over the country.

Richard Simmons

Richard Simmons is a unique brand. He has the capacity to make a grown man cry with his motivational words and heart-warming sincerity. When he was younger, he had been morbidly overweight and he lost the weight, on his own, by changing his eating habits and exercising. Simmons devoted his life to helping others change their lives. His message has been spread through all forms of media-records, CDs, videos, restaurants, television appearances, The Howard Stern Show...Most humans with a television have heard of Sweatin to the Oldies and Deal-A-Meal. His retro-ways are still alive and kicking.

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Retro Exercise Trends
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