10 Decades, 10 (Slightly Insane) Fitness Trends

It’s no secret that the key to living a healthy lifestyle is constantly changing and has evolved multiple times over the decades. Let’s walk through some of the most popular workouts since the 1920s.

1920s: WWI Inspires Working Out

While there aren’t any real “fitness trends,” the inspiration of working out came from the statistics following World War I. It was found that one out of every three drafted individuals was unfit for combat and many of those drafted were unfit prior to military training. Government legislation was passed that ordered the improvement of physical education programs in public schools. Unfortunately, this concern was short-lived because of the Great Depression.

1930s: Women’s League of Health & Beauty

This decade’s trend isn’t a specific workout per se; it’s more of a movement. Founded by Mary Bagot Stack, this movement was the first and most significant mass keep-fit system of the 1930s in the UK. Thousands of women would workout together because they wanted to better themselves. The idea that women’s purpose was to please men was slowly starting to fade away.

1940s: Stretching

According to wellness360, the main exercise for women was categorized by stretching. The U.S. Army adopted jumping jacks because of the low fitness level among drafted soldiers, making this exercise popular among men. Jumping jacks and toe-stretches were believed to keep bodies toned and in good shape. 

1950s: Hula Hoop

Most of us probably reminisce on our childhood when we think of hula hoops. More than 400,000 were sold by 1957. While originally marketed as a toy when it first hit stores, people figured out that hula hooping for 30 minutes was a good full-body workout.

1960s: Vibrating Belt

Apparently, people in the 60s believed that unwanted fat could just be shaken away. The vibrations in the belt were supposed to mimic a massage. At the time, it was thought massages cured fatigue, removed toxins, increased muscle tone and improved circulation. As you might guess, this wasn’t really how massages worked and people started to figure this out. The vibrating belt’s popularity began to fade. 1970s: Jazzercise

This decade introduced a new, high-intensity form of exercise called jazzercise. It’s a mix of jazz dance, ballet, pilates, yoga and kickboxing. The routines usually are set to popular songs that the instructor chooses. This trend began the era of choreographed exercise set to music.

1980s: Aerobics

Originally invented in the 1960s, it didn’t become popular until the 1980s when Jane Fonda released a book and aerobics workout tapes. The dance moves were combined with fitness movements, such as elevating knees or marching in place. Aerobics became a workout empire and inspired several spin-offs, like water and step aerobics.

1990s: Tae Bo & Spinning

Karate master Billy Banks took the fitness world by storm in the 90s. He created Tae Bo, a high-intensity cardio workout that combines martial arts, boxing, dancing and hip-hop. At the height of its popularity, over 500 million Tae Bo videos were sold.

Another popular trend in the 90s was spinning. This originated when Johnny Goldberg, a South African cyclist and personal trainer who moved to America, was out riding one night and was almost hit by a car. Goldberg was inspired to move cycling indoors and began teaching spinning classes. This started a workout revolution and with the addition of upbeat music, Soul Cycle was born.

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 can be found in most gyms and the exercise is popular in 180 countries across the world.

2010s: CrossFit

This type of workout was born in 2000 by Greg Glassman. He 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 (gymnastic exercises to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement). The first CrossFit gym originated in Santa Cruz, California. Now there are thousands of CrossFit gyms and trainers across the country and a large community has formed around the trend.

If you’re feeling inspired to kick up your fitness game after reading this article, you can find group workout classes similar to these at your local gym. Also, WVU students can check out the Rec Center’s workout class schedule and get in for free with their student ID.