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8 Amazing Fitness Fads That Made Us Laugh -- Some of Them Even Worked! (PHOTOS)

Sure, the Barre Method and CrossFit are the hottest fitness trends now. But will they stand up to the test of time? Will we be looking back with nostalgia at our workouts today, shaking our heads and wondering what we were thinking?

Let's take a look back at some of the vintage fitness fads from the past, to see what works ... and what is truly just as crazy as it seemed when it launched. Maybe just like fluorescent workout gear, one or more of these trends will make a comeback!


Image via Ananta Maitra/Flickr

2Hula Hoop

The hula hoop made its American debut in the 1950s and became popular with kids, teenagers, and adults almost instantly. In the past few years, hula hooping has made a bit of a comeback -- you can even find them in some of the top gyms in New York City!

So is it actually an effective workout? Yes! A study by the American Council on Exercise found that 30 minutes of hula hooping burns as many calories as boot camp or step aerobics. However, for it to be effective, you should buy a weighted hula hoop rather than the light plastic ones you may remember from when you were a kid.


Suzanne Somers graced the infomercial world in the early '90s with her iconic ThighMaster. Millions of the oddly-shaped contraption were sold, and it's still available today.

So, should you run out and buy one today? Not so fast! Just like the infamous inner and outer thigh machines at the gym, the ThighMaster does target the areas it says it does, just not very effectively. Always remember, spot reduction is a myth!

For a better way to work your inner thighs, think sumo squats and crossover lunges. If squatting and lunging are tough for you, use the cables at the gym with ankle attachments to do lateral and medial leg raises for a better workout than the ThighMaster.

4Roller Skates

Talk about a vintage fitness trend! Roller skates have been around since the early 19th century, but they became popular in the US in the 1950s. The 1970s saw a disco revival of skates, then in the 1990s, the trend was upgraded to inline roller blades.

This is one fitness fad that is a great workout, regardless of popularity! The aerobic benefits of skating are comparable to jogging, and extra benefits include it being a low-impact activity for your joints, as well as utilizing the muscles on your inner and outer thighs. (Actually, this is a great replacement for the ThighMaster!)

5The AB Belt

There are lots of different versions of the AB Belt. Basically, it's a belt you wrap around your middle, which sends small electrical impulses via gel pads into your abdominal muscles, making them contract.

Marketed as the way to get a six-pack without even having to leave your couch, the AB Belt is definitely one of those too-good-to-be-true gimmicks. They don't work, guys. Nothing other than good old-fashioned healthy eating to reduce body fat as well as a good strength training and cardio routine are going to give you a six-pack. Even then, you're kind of reliant on genes, anyway.


Is there any more enthusiastic infomercial promoter than Tony Little? His exercise machine called the Gazelle came out in 1997 and is still available today. That blonde ponytail, those tiny shorts, his super-optimistic exuberance -- Tony Little is fun to watch.

But is the Gazelle worth trying? Maybe ... and maybe not. All of the Gazelle models have no motor and are reliant on momentum to keep going. Only some models include resistance controls, and the ones with resistance are obviously going to give you a better workout. In the end, the Gazelle would be a better choice for someone just starting out on an exercise program, since it's probably not going to be strenuous enough for a fit person to use indefinitely.

7The Shake Weight

I can tell you from years of working as a personal trainer in a gym, the Shake Weight is a favorite gag gift from clients to their trainers. I guarantee you could walk into any staff locker room in a gym and see at least one languishing on top of the lockers.

Do I really need to tell you this one is useless? Apart from the obvious hilarity of the commercial advertising it, the Shake Weight offers no worthwhile benefits. Unless you are a cocktail server in an incredibly busy bar, I can't think of anyone who would actually get any real use from this gadget.

8The Jane Fonda Workout

Oh, Jane Fonda! I actually have a soft spot for these classic '80s workout tapes -- my mom and I used to do these workouts in our living room together.

I'm a big fan of workout DVDs in general, especially for new moms who are often limited to working out in the house while baby is napping. The Jane Fonda workout is safe so long as you follow the guidelines. Just remember, the more you do a workout, and the better you become at it, the less calories you will end up burning. So definitely use this as part of a rotating collection of workouts to keep your body adapting.

Also, you're not stuck with the crazy leotard '80s versions anymore, either. Jane Fonda is still making workout DVDs today, at 75 years old! Go Jane!

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