Since when is it hip to be fit? Group fitness as we know it today really took off in the 80’s with easy- to- follow dance routines, then spun off into studio- bound versions of already popular sports, like biking or kickboxing. Now it seems to be swinging back to where it all started, with rythm- based dance workouts modeled after popular pop culture trends or other exotic cultures. Lucky for us, much of group fitness’ evolution took place during the video age- most the workouts of yesteryear are available on VHS tape and/or DVD, and some are even repurposed for YouTube! Take a trip down memory lane with this timeline of the most memorable fitness fads, and see how much you actually remember.
- 1974- “Let’s Go Ladies!!!”: Fitness Kicks Off. Richard Simmons develops a program designed to “cater to everyone” (Richard Simmons Official Website) in a dance- inspired aerobics workout at his still active Beverly Hills studio, Slimmons. As an obese child, Simmons wanted “a health club that wasn’t for people already in shape”, and so his all- inclusive fitness empire was born. In 1988 Simmons produced the forty- minute videotape “Sweatin’ To The Oldies”, which also went on to become one of the most successful exercise tapes of all time. He still owns and teaches classes at Slimmons.
- 1982- “Feel the Burn”!: America does the Jane Fonda. After injuring her foot while filming The China Syndrome, ballet- trained Jane Fonda turns to the aerobics craze to keep herself fit. She uses exercises from personal trainer Leni Cazden and star power to make Jane Fonda’s Workout the best- selling exercise video tape ever at 17 million copies to date. She recently released Prime Time Fit & Strong and Prime Time Walk Out, both aimed at an older audience, keeping in step with her original baby boomer fans (Elle Magazine, 2010).
- 1984: Mattel releases Aerobics Barbie. She comes with a booklet of instructions and an exercise audio cassette. Her look is later mimicked in 2010’s Toy Story 3.
- 1989-South African Johnny G brings Spin to the States. Johnathan “Johnny G” Goldman opens the Spinning Studio in Santa Monica and kick starts indoor group cycling, better known as Spin. After a dangerous nighttime biking encounter deterred Goldman from training on his bike outdoors, he designed a stationary bike “utilizing a large mass braked flywheel to simulate actual road conditions”. Johnny G spent 10 years developing Spinning, which emphasizes motivation, breathing techniques and positivity. “The goal is the help you find the champion within,” says Goldman (LA Times, 2000)
- 1992: How To Look Like A Supermodel without Really Trying. Then one of the planet’s most in- demand supermodels, Crawford was asked to star in two fitness videos, Cyndi Crawford: Shape Your Body & Cyndi Crawford: The Next Challenge (1993). She demonstrates exercises developed by personal trainer Radu Teodorescu (who still works in Hollywood and advises articles for several women’s magazines, including Elle and Seventeen). The tape has sold over 2 million copies in the US.
- 1998: “Cardio Boxing” Pumps Up the Males. Billy Blanks releases the first video in his Tae Bo series, Tae- Bo Instructional Workout. Though Blanks opened Billy Blanks World Training Center in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles in 1989, the rapid- motion martial arts/ kickboxing routine caught fire in the late 1990’s and made cardio- style kickboxing classes a permanent fixture in gyms nationwide.
- 2002- Hip Hop hits the living room. Darrin Dewitt Henderson, “Pop’s Hottest Choreographer” for the early part of the 2000’s, releases step- by step instructions for dancing to “Bye Bye Bye” and “…Baby one more time” in his video Darrin’s Dance Grooves to the delight of teenyboppers everywhere. He paves the way for choreo- based tapes with moves that can be done both on the kitchen floor and on the dance floor, if your mamma lets you.
- 2007: Dancing with the TV Set. ABC’s hit series Dancing With The Stars, on the air since 2005 and now in its 12th season, gives rise to a series of Cardio Dance DVDs. The brand- name DVD’s capitalize on today’s cardio dance trend that can be seen in everything from hip- hop routines to Zumba classes.