17 Exercise Fads From the '80s and '90s You'll Want to Try Again (PHOTOS)

Rona Gindin | Aug 25, 2015 Healthy Living
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  • Stability Ball


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    Physical therapists began using stability balls (aka Swiss balls) in the U.S. in the '80s, and by the '90s, the fitness community had stocked up, too. These firm, oversized balls of air were used in Pilates, but eventually they became their own thing. They're used for everything from crunches to planks to simply taking the place of a chair to improve balance and posture, and it's hard to walk into a gym or an office these days without spotting one. 

  • Celebrity Fitness Videos


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    Jane Fonda, a longtime fitness lover with an impossibly flexible physique, released her first exercise video in 1982, and it became a bona fide sensation. More videos followed, as did a slew of other celebrities eager to churn out their personal workouts for profit, too. Cindy Crawford, Olivia Newton-John, Elle McPherson, Paula Abdul, and even Cher joined the mix.

  • ThighMaster


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    America was smitten with Suzanne Somers's Chrissy Snow character on Three's Company, which ended in 1981. A decade later, she got a leg up on a second career path by hawking the Thighmaster. As the portable equipment's official spokeswoman, Somers appeared on infomercials, and for a while, those little thigh machines were pretty popular.

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  • Pilates


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    The next time your exercise instructor sends the class into planks, thank (or curse) Pilates. Sort of a hybrid between calisthenics and yoga, Pilates focuses on what's commonly called "the core." Strengthening these ab muscles is key, but concentration, breathing, and control matter, too. German asthmatic Joseph Pilates started Pilates back in the '30s and '40s, but the mind-body workout's popularity didn't spike until the 1980s.

  • Sweatin' to the Oldies


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    Former fatty Richard Simmons took an old-fashioned approach to aerobics, but rather than crank up the disco tunes, the overly upbeat Beverly Hills instructor led his calorie-burning classes to boppy tunes of yore. "Dancing in the Street" and "My Boyfriend's Back" were hits in his videos, which featured overweight participants, not the muscular pros more typical of the exercise-tape genre. Simmons made four Sweatin' videos before expanding into show tunes and, later, diet helpers, such as the Deal-A-Meal program.

  • High-Impact Aerobics


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    America's love affair with aerobics -- high-energy exercises where both feet leave the floor -- began in the late 1960s, but by the mid-1980s, the number of us bouncing around to burn mega-calories had tripled. We'd line up in rows trying to follow the footsteps of instructors who had us moving in myriad directions -- fast. Our heart rates went up and sweat poured down. 

  • Calisthenics


    Image via hightowernrw/shutterstock

    For those who wanted to firm up without all the jumping involved with aerobics, calisthenics fit the bill. Leagues of ladies donned their leg warmers and flocked to group classes at their local gyms, lunging and squatting along with their peers. 

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  • Body by Jake


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    Fitness fanatic Jake Steinfeld started out as a trainer to the stars, and by the 1980s, he'd starred in the Fitness Break by Jake and Body by Jake TV shows, as well as a later sitcom called Big Brother Jake. Videotapes, books, and, by 1993, a round-the-clock fitness TV station, brought him more fame and fortune. Everyone, it seemed, wanted a body by Jake.

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