Fitness Fads Over The Years

Fitness fads over the years

Fitness fads over the years

Exercise activities and trends have certainly changed a lot in the last 70 years especially with the advent of sports science and the internet. So as we approach the Queens Platinum Jubilee, we thought we’d take a trip back through the decades and see what was going in centres, halls and homes across the country.


In the 50’s bodyweight exercises and dance based movements were the popular methods of choice. While Calisthenics (bodyweight) were an easy and effective way to keep active, strong and fit in the 50’s, certain more flamboyant trends decided to appear, namely hula hooping. It was a big fad during 1958 with around 100 million hula hoops being sold in the first six months on the market.

1950's Exercise


In the 60’s all you had to do was stand, sit, or lie down and let the machines do the rest. There were hot sauna suits and wooden roller machines that promised to break down fat, and the ever-popular belt massager that was supposed to jiggle it away. If only it were that simple!

People applied their inventive thoughts to new and innovative ways to get fit and fight fat. This could arguably be when the ‘get results fast’ mentality started to mature with people gravitating toward quick fixes rather than hard work. Conversely weightlifting started to really take off with bedrock institutions such as Golds Gym being founded in 1965. Bodybuilding as a sport was starting to gain momentum.


The bodybuilding craze swept across the United States and much of the world in the ’70s and Arnold Schwarzenegger rose to fame as the face of the sport. So, naturally, weight lifting became huge. Big muscles were in fashion and weight lifting quickly became the latest exercise trend—especially with young men. Weightlifting and resistance equipment was now beginning to appear in health clubs, sports clubs, and anywhere that offered exercise or sports as a recreational activity…albeit, very slowly.



While weightlifting started to take in the 70’s it was slow to be adopted amongst the mainstream exercise modalities. While people were more aware now of the benefit of staying fit and strong what emerged  on the scene was less brawn, more lycra. The era of the aerobics class exploded across the 80’s and step aerobics took this popularity on to a new level. The aim was to step over and around the box step, following an instructor’s choreographed moves to music. Unlike many 80s workouts, step has stood the test of time and is still offered in many gyms as an exercise class.

Whether you were in a gym or at home in the front room, lycra didn’t discriminate and it became as much a staple to training as the accompanying Jane fonder home workout DVD.

The 80’s was the first time that the fashion industry started to welcome exercise goes with open arms.


Exercises from the ’90s are their own special variety. There were some that emerged in that decade, or that already existed but didn’t become popular until the ’90s, but these trends just go to show that there was literally nothing that could escape the influence of ’90s style. In the ’90s, we had the X Games and the Extreme Sports channel. Extreme sports weren’t just extreme, they were XTREME. Exercise was, in the ’90s, sometimes about doing weird tricks on a skateboard, rock climbing, surfing, or any matter of other activity that was deemed XTREME.

Mainstream health clubs started to become a bigger part of our culture, ushering the likes David Lloyd, Holmes place, Esporta, Virgin Active and La Fitness now combining a swim, sports, class and gym service all under one roof and importantly family friendly.

Gyms in 2022


Since the dawn of the new millennium exercise trends have been impacted and influenced by the dramatic improvements in technology. From the internet and social media, to innovations in smart watches, apps, and even virtual classes and competitions, people are using it today to accomplish their fitness goals. Technology can help engage people in exercise more often and with better education on what modalities and diets that best suit their goals.

While there are plenty of positives there comes a potential for difficulty when navigating the virtual sea of information now available at our fingertips. Paralysis by analysis, information overload…whatever you want to call it, discerning between the useful and the useless is becoming more and more difficult. People will often exploit the platforms these new technologies provide and misinformation and bs is now common rhetoric.

So after 70 years of exercise developments, innovations, trends, fashions, influencers, experiences both positive and negative, where do we find ourselves today?

For us at South Downs Leisure we are focussing on providing research backed education and exercises services aimed at helping and improving the health and wellbeing of our members and community. Whether its new classes, exercise referral programs, personal training or new gym suites we will always be looking to do better.  Our sites offer the broadest range of activities and services you could find on the south coast, so whatever your chosen method of health and fitness may be, we have you covered.

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