Fitness Trends of the Last Six Decades

on June 4, 2015

Bulles & Bottillions

Fitness Through the Decades

In the last decade, we've seen the rise of YouTube toning gurus, Crossfit devotees, and Zumba instructors attempting to fuse exercising with a dance party. Tabata and circuit training have become popular ways to tighten 'n tone, and how long does it take before you come across the acronym "H.I.I.T." when investigating effective workouts? Have you ever wondered which of these trends are old workouts rearing their heads and what past workouts are buried deep in the archives of health history? Join us in taking a look at the last six decades' biggest fitness trends.

Daily Mail


The 1950s were all about rhythmic exercises, jumping jacks, calisthenics and the "Five Basic Exercises." Jumping Jacks were developed during World War II by John "Black Jack" in order to improve the dismal cardiovascular shape of soldiers, and the movement entered the mainstream in the coming decade. "Five Basic Exercises" (or 5BX) required participants to alternate between five exercises for 15 minutes, three times a week (sounds kinda like circuit training, huh?). But nothing quite caught flame like the hula hoop: In the first year that hula hoops were distributed in the United States, we bought 100 million hula hoops.



What a decade for fitness. In the 1960s, we re-popularized massage belts from the 1850s that apparently vibrated away areas of unwanted fat; we ordered many a trim twist rotating board to whittle away at that waist; and we participated in stretch classes designed for the working woman. Diet soda and artificial sugar became popular ways of eating healthier (oh, the horror!), but Weight Watchers was founded in 1963--so it's not all bad.


Thankfully, we traded in massage belts for body building and jazzercise in the 1970s. Granted, we did see the advent of the sauna belt trim jeans (which were to be worn while preforming "magic torso" exercises), but this passing fad was short-lived.

Getty Images


Jazzercise was still going strong in the 1980s and its little sister, aerobics, experienced newfound popularity in the 80s. Although aerobics was invented in the 1960s by NASAs Dr. Kenneth Cooper, no one really cared until Jane Fonda (who, by the way, still looks ahhh-mazing) stepped onto the work out scene with her new book and videos. Aside from aerobics, indoor cross country ski machines and racquetball clubs were other popular ways we got fit in the 1980s.


Please welcome the step, taebo, boot camp and and insurgence of celebrity workout videos. We still use that good ol' step from the 90s in group fitness classes today, and you can bet it was all the rage back then as well. Taekwondo aficionado Billy Blanks started taebo, a high intensity form of martial art designed for anyone trying to get into shape, and we can thank the 90s starting the bootcamp trend that still isn't over. And how many of us still remember the Cindy Crawford "Shape Your Body" video (now available on DVD)?



At the turn of the century, our "staying fit" options exploded. From street dance with the cool kids, to pilates, kickboxing, and more weightlifting exercises for women, a whole new world of fitness was at our fingertips. Workouts were more scientifically based and heart rate became an essential measure of just how effective your work was. Let us also remember the introduction of the ipod to your cardio routine. Goodbye walkmans and skipping CD players, we don't miss you.



Halfway through this decade and we've already seen the rise of P90x, Youtube fitness bloggers, H.I.I.T., crossfit, tabata, body weight training, and endless types of group fitness classes. There are a couple of arising themes so far: we tend to look down on total cardio bunnies (sorry, but just google "cardio bunny" and you'll see what we mean) and instead emphasize toning circuits or cardio that involves a fluctuating heart rate. But who's to tell what's to come in the rest of this decade.