If you’re like me, perhaps not professional athlete material, but certainly someone who enjoys armchair sports and likes working out, you may have been keeping an eye on fitness trends over the past few decades.
Yes, there have been some particularly interesting (if not outright corny) fads that have come and gone since my childhood. Who could forget those energetic but wholly cheesy ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies’ videos with exercise guru Richard Simmons. He seemed to pump a new one out every few months back in the 1980s. The home video age also brought with it the convenience of home workouts that could be performed simply by following along with a tape inside a VCR. For those youngsters reading this column, a VCR, or video cassette recorder, is a primitive electromechanical device (that would most often have a digital display that flashed “12:00”) and was used to play video cassettes. The machine was, once upon a time, a staple in most homes.
But anyway, back to the topic at hand.
Yes, physical fitness. More specifically, how the art of keeping in shape has evolved. Some of the most popular trends have been Jazzercise, a mixture of jazz dance, ballet, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing that came onto the scene sometime in the 1970s and, while its popularity may have waned, is still practiced, albeit with modern twists.
But for those of us in early middle age and older, the most prolific form of exercise that sprung up in the 1980s and has evolved into various forms since is undoubtedly aerobics, made especially popular by Jane Fonda and Olivia-Newton John in the covertly erotic music video for her 1981 hit ‘Let’s Get Physical’. While this may have been a superior form of exercise (at least in its time) I’m not so keen on returning to an era of sweaty headbands, vibrantly coloured spandex, and leg warmers. Please, keep them back there.
In addition to playing sports and working out, I have always enjoyed watching and practicing martial arts, having reached as far as blue belt level in Tae Kwon Do in my early 20s. If you were around in the 1990s, you might remember a certain karate master named Billy Banks, who took over the fitness world, eventually selling more than 500 million videos of his famous Tae Bo home workouts, a fantastic way of maintaining physical fitness while learning some karate moves. Fast forward (no pun intended, I simply couldn’t help using some VCR terminology) a decade or so into the 2000s when society hooked onto another craze — Zumba. This one combined dance moves with very loud and sometimes obnoxious music.
Yes, if you’re keen on keeping healthy, there are plenty of available options, especially in this fast-paced day and age when people are constantly looking for the most efficient possible way of getting something done, exercising being no exception. Once-bulky videocassettes were replaced by Youtube and, not long after, apps on phones that enable us to access content regardless of time or location. Phone apps and online videos came in particularly handy during the COVID-19 pandemic when fitness centres were closed for extended periods of time and gym junkies had to find another way to get their fix.
Speaking of efficiency, another very popular trend that has taken root in recent years is HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. With most online workouts available absolutely free and requiring little to no equipment, HIIT has become a very affordable way to get in a great workout.
While we may still think like we’re young and invincible, the reality is, we’re getting older, as evidenced by the increasing number of candles on birthday cakes each year. Therefore, many of the types of workouts we enjoyed in our salad days are not always kind to aging bodies. Therefore, it is imperative to make modifications. In recent years, one of the best inventions in fitness equipment has been resistance bands, which are multi-colored and display how much weight is on each one. Unlike heavy weights, resistance bands are low impact, yet are designed to give one a solid at-home workout while still building muscle.
So, there you have it, not only a brief history of modern fitness trends but also the various ways to maintain physical well-being. That reminds me, my Bold Center gym membership is almost expired.