A Look at Past Exercise Trends

The 1980s was a vibrant decade known for its bold fashion, iconic music, and, of course, its unique fitness trends. The era brought about a revolution in how people approached exercise, with a focus on fun, group activities, and home workouts. Let's dive into some of the most memorable fitness fads from the 80s.

Aerobics: The Rise of Group Fitness Classes

Aerobics became synonymous with the 80s fitness craze. Brightly colored leotards, leg warmers, and headbands were the uniform of choice as people flocked to gyms for energetic group fitness classes. The appeal of aerobics lay in its social nature and the high-energy music that accompanied the workouts. It wasn't just about breaking a sweat; it was about having a good time while doing it.

Gyms saw a surge in memberships as people of all ages wanted to be part of this exhilarating trend. Aerobics classes were often led by enthusiastic instructors who motivated participants with shouts of encouragement and upbeat tunes. The sense of community and the infectious energy of these classes made working out a fun and engaging experience.

Jazzercise: Combining Dance and Exercise

Another standout trend from the 80s was Jazzercise, which took the concept of aerobics and added a dance twist. Created by Judi Sheppard Missett in 1969, Jazzercise gained massive popularity in the 80s, blending jazz dance, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing into one comprehensive workout. It was the perfect way to groove to the music of the time while getting a full-body workout.

Jazzercise classes were known for their lively routines and vibrant atmospheres. The blend of dance and exercise made it feel less like a workout and more like a dance party. It wasn't uncommon to see participants laughing and cheering each other on as they moved to the beat. This joyful approach to fitness helped Jazzercise become a beloved activity for many.

Step Aerobics: The Fitness Craze on a Step Platform

Step aerobics emerged as a new way to elevate the traditional aerobics class. This fitness trend involved performing choreographed routines on a raised platform, or step. Introduced by Gin Miller in 1989, step aerobics quickly became a staple in gyms across the country.

The appeal of step aerobics was its versatility. Participants could adjust the height of their steps to increase or decrease the intensity of their workout. The steps added an element of challenge and excitement, making the routines dynamic and engaging. Plus, the use of steps allowed for a low-impact workout that was easier on the joints, making it accessible to a wider range of people.

Jane Fonda Workouts: Home Fitness Revolution

No discussion of 80s fitness trends would be complete without mentioning Jane Fonda. The actress and fitness guru revolutionized home workouts with her series of exercise videos. Released in 1982, "Jane Fonda's Workout" quickly became a bestseller and sparked a home fitness movement.

Jane Fonda's workouts were designed to be accessible and effective, catering to people who preferred to exercise in the comfort of their own homes. Her routines combined aerobic exercise with strength training, offering a well-rounded fitness program. The videos were easy to follow, and Fonda's encouraging demeanor made viewers feel supported and motivated.

The success of Jane Fonda's workout videos demonstrated the growing demand for convenient, at-home exercise options. It also paved the way for future fitness influencers and home workout programs.

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Richard Simmons: Sweatin' to the Oldies

Richard Simmons was more than just a fitness instructor; he was a pop culture icon. Known for his flamboyant personality and passion for helping people get fit, Simmons made exercise accessible and fun. His "Sweatin' to the Oldies" video series, which combined classic oldies music with aerobic exercises, became a sensation.

Simmons' approach was all about inclusivity and positivity. His workouts were designed to be fun and motivating, regardless of fitness level. With his trademark curly hair, colorful outfits, and infectious enthusiasm, Richard Simmons inspired millions to get off the couch and start moving.

The Popularity of Home Exercise Equipment

The 80s also saw a boom in the popularity of home exercise equipment. People wanted the convenience of working out at home, and manufacturers were quick to capitalize on this trend. Treadmills, stationary bikes, and rowing machines became common household items.

Infomercials played a significant role in promoting these products. Iconic fitness gadgets like the ThighMaster and NordicTrack were advertised heavily on TV, promising to transform bodies with minimal effort. The convenience of home exercise equipment meant that people could incorporate fitness into their daily routines without needing to go to the gym.

The Role of Fitness VHS Tapes in the 80s

Fitness VHS tapes were another game-changer in the 80s. These tapes allowed people to follow along with workouts at home, guided by their favorite fitness gurus. The variety of workouts available on VHS meant there was something for everyone, from high-intensity aerobics to relaxing yoga sessions.

Fitness celebrities like Denise Austin and Kathy Smith became household names through their VHS workout series. These tapes often featured catchy music, clear instructions, and a friendly demeanor, making it easy for anyone to get started with fitness. The accessibility and affordability of these tapes contributed to the widespread adoption of home workouts.

Celebrity Fitness Gurus and Their Influence

The 80s was the era of the celebrity fitness guru. Besides Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda, other fitness personalities rose to fame and left a lasting impact on the fitness industry. Jack LaLanne, often referred to as the "Godfather of Fitness," continued to promote health and fitness through his TV show and fitness products.

Bodybuilding legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno also inspired many to hit the gym and build muscle. Their impressive physiques and charismatic personalities made bodybuilding more mainstream. The influence of these fitness icons extended beyond their workout programs; they shaped the way people viewed fitness and healthy living.

Legacy of 80s Fitness Trends in Modern Workouts

The fitness trends of the 80s have left a lasting legacy on the way we approach exercise today. Many of the concepts introduced during this decade, such as group fitness classes and home workouts, remain popular. Modern fitness programs often draw inspiration from the vibrant, high-energy workouts of the 80s, incorporating dance, music, and community.

For example, contemporary fitness crazes like Zumba and spin classes owe a debt to the aerobic and dance-based workouts of the 80s. The emphasis on fun, social interaction, and energetic music has proven to be a timeless formula for keeping people motivated and engaged in their fitness routines.


Reflecting on the fitness fads of the 80s, it's clear that this decade was pivotal in shaping today's fitness culture. The 80s introduced innovative ways to make exercise enjoyable and accessible, creating a lasting impact on the industry. From the enthusiastic aerobics classes to the convenience of home workouts, these trends laid the foundation for many of the fitness options we enjoy today.

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