5 retro fitness fads

From ’80s aerobics to strippercise, take a ride in our way-back machine to remember the fitness trends we loved

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1980s aerobics

Workouts through the decades

The fitness industry has come a long way since shiny Spandex and sweatbands ruled the scene. But it’s fun to stroll down memory lane and remember fitness fads of the past. Here’s what made an impact.

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Jane Fonda's Workout


The concept of aerobic exercise is actually quite new-Dr. Kenneth Cooper, a flight surgeon for NASA, developed the idea in the late 1960s. But the aerobics craze really took off with the release of Jane Fonda’s Workout book and video in 1982. The arrival of home video players meant women could pop in the tape and participate in a workout in their living rooms. Aerobics classes were also popular in the 1980s, which led to the unfortunate aerobics-wear trend-who can forget those shiny leotards with belts, headbands and legwarmers? Choreographed aerobics classes went out of fashion in the 1990s, but they’re making their way back into style today (as is, sadly, aerobics fashion).

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Vibrating belts

Vibrating belt machines

Popular in spas and for home use in the 1960 and ’70s, these machines were supposed to melt your fat away using vibration-no actual work required. Alas, the to-good-to-be-true trend fell out of favour, leaving the kitschy machines to gather dust in basements and garages.

Surprisingly, similar products that claim to vibrate or flex your muscles into shape while you do nothing are still for sale today.

Photo by A.M. Kuchling

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The ThighMaster

Following Jane Fonda’s Spandex-wearing lead, ’70s actress Suzanne Somers broke into the fitness business with the ThighMaster. The iconic device (which is still for sale today) provides resistance for thigh-shaping exercises. Somers appeared in infomercials in the 1990s that urged viewers to “squeeze, squeeze your way to a shapely figure.”

The ThighMaster was just the beginning of Somers’ diet and fitness empire-she now acts as spokeswoman for everything from an artificial sweetener to something called the FaceMaster, a device that firms and tones facial muscles.

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Stripping and pole dancing for fitness gained popularity in the early 2000s, especially after Carmen Electra released her Aerobic Striptease workout DVD in 2003. The idea behind this fitness fad is that women can burn calories and spice up their love lives all at once. What a time saver! But erotic exercise isn’t just for the bedroom-gyms and specialty studios still offer classes that teach participants how to shimmy, shake and swivel.

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Tae Bo

Tae Bo

Created by martial arts champion Billy Blanks, Tae Bo was a workout sensation at the turn of the millennium. Blanks released his first Tae Bo video workout in 1998, and a 1999 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that an estimated 1.5 million videos had been sold that year. The combination of martial arts, boxing and aerobics is meant to tone muscles, develop focus and improve reflexes.

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