10 fitness fads, you won’t believe people bought into!!

Each year bikini season arrives and each year there is a new fitness trend which promises you the perfect beach body in record time. Weird device marketed on late night TV, Celebrity spokespeople and miraculous results led to overcrowded classes and ridiculous fads. Some fitness trends are still going strong today, others have gone out of fashion as fast as they popped up. Do you remember these fitness fads and trends?


1. Aerobics


There is no way to talk about fitness fads without mentioning aerobics. Starting in the late eighties and lasting well into the nineties the fitness trend took the world by storm. All over the US and Europe studious were popping up and workout gear like leotards and legwarmers was flying of the racks. You might thing of tanned toned and smiley people when you hear aerobics, but actually the workout was developed by a former Air Force Colonel. Say what?
In 1968 the exercise physiologist Dr. Kenneth Cooper published “Aerobics”, a book describing high energy cardio workouts. The name itself comes from the high demand in oxygen during the workout. The book became quite popular, but it wasn’t until the famous actress Jane Fonda released her exercise video in 1982 that aerobics became a world-wide trend. It spawned such fads as competitive aerobic gymnastics and home exercise videos. Jane Fonda alone published 23 exercise videos which sold over 17 million copies. Even if the spandex clad jumping seems ridiculous now, it is actually a good way to burn some calories.

2. Tae Bo 


Remember Tae Bo? If not, you probably weren’t obsessed with your body in the late nineties. The martial artist Billy Blanks combined elements of taekwondo and boxing. A fitness rage was born. The video featuring a sweaty combination of fitness and aerobic moves sold over 1 million copies in the first year alone. Soon after the release almost every fitness studio was offering Tae Bo classes. If you were really lucky, you could even take a class with the master himself.
This particular fitness trend died down after a few years but it led to many “cardio-boxing” variations. And with good reason: the silly and gimmicky looking hooks, jibes, punches and kicks are actually providing a pretty solid workout for the whole body. Just try to avoid using them in a fight. When it comes to self-defense, Tae Bo is about as effective as a jumping jack.

3. Celebrity Workout Videos


It wasn’t just Jane Fonda and Billy Blanks who lend their famous names and bodies to some workout videos. In the eighties and nineties, you could work out at home with Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Cher, Alissa Milano and many, many more.
You might not be aware of it, but Celebrity workout videos are not completely a thing of the past. More current incarnations feature The Situation from “The Jersey Shore”, stars of “The Real Housewives” and the Kardashian Klan. While the exercises themselves might be an effective way to get in shape without leaving home, most people are not getting fit with them. But, if you really want work your belly muscles, check out Christina Applegates (of “Married with children” Fame) spoofing the workout trend with her “Prenatal Pole Dancing” video.

4. ThighMaster


Another fitness trend from the 90s was the ThighMaster. Developed by Joshua Reynolds, who incidentally also invented the mood ring, the little fitness gadget seemed to be in every basement. Suzanne Sonntag promised you could squeeze your way to the tights of a goddess, or to quote directly from the late-night infomercial: “squeeze your way to a shapely figure”.
The original product sold over 10 million times, and that’s not counting the rip offs which flooded the market. Alas, most people never managed to squeeze their way to a great body. By the way, other infomercial fads like the Ab roller, the Ab rocket and the Bodyblade also made a ton of money before being retired, presumably after three attempts tops. Oh, and remember the shake weight? The little dumbbell which made you blush and think “who will ever by that?” made $ 40 million in sales.

5. Vibrating machines


In the 1960s and 70s vibrating belts promised to vibrate your fat away. You put the belt around the chubby body part, stand there for a certain amount of time and step away looking fit and lean. A tall promise that was too good to be true. External vibration will not burn any fat and it also won’t tone you up. Reading this, you probably wonder how people could fall for it just a few decades ago.
Well, then you will be even more surprised to find out that this fad is well alive. In the late 2000s a new vibrating fitness trend emerged: The Power Plate. It was basically a vibrating plate that you stood on or put your arms on while doing mostly stationary exercises. Unlike the fat melting vibration myth, you needed to actually do something while using it. The story went that your muscles would react to the vibration by tensing and releasing, thus providing you with a quick super workout. The machines were expensive, the hype was huge and an hour with an instructor cost a fortune.

6. Electric muscle stimulation


If you want to get a great body, but really cannot be bothered by sweaty exercise, then electric muscle stimulation could just be the thing for you. Many, many different belts, suits and patches promise you a toned body without having to leave the couch. The infomercials show buff models who supposedly got their body from letting electric shocks exercise the muscles.
How does it work? Well, it doesn’t, but there is some biology behind it. Those devices send electric impulses to your muscles, supposedly mimicking your own nervous signals, and make them contract. Your muscle does work, but it is about as effective as an involuntary muscle twitch.
Nowadays ems assisted training is on the rise. You get electrodes all over and a comparatively high currant which actually keeps your muscles contracted. Your goal is to work against the external strain. Fact is, your body is working, but it can also be dangerous. Some users and assistants got overzealous and turned the voltage to high. The result was muscle damage and extreme physical exhaustion.

7. Toning shoes


Toning shoes are a very new fad. Huge marketing campaigns featuring celebrities promised toned legs, improved bums, better posture and less weight by simply changing your foot wear. Millions of people started to wear the sneakers with a curved sole. Chances are, none of them saw a huge difference in their body. The curved sole provides an unstable surface, which in theory engages your core muscles as you have to work a bit more to stay balanced. And that is where the story ends.
Toning shoes CAN improve your balance a little bit, but that’s about it. The claims boasted in commercials cannot achieved by walking around in slightly unstable footwear. Especially seeing how little most people walk on foot. However, if you do increase the amount of walking you do, your leg muscles would change, no matter what footwear you are wearing. But most importantly: Don’t go jogging in your shape ups, as this could actually significantly damage your feet and ankles.

8. Pilates

Portrait of young man doing physical exercise on ball and looking at camera

Today almost everybody knows somebody who does yoga, but how about Pilates? That core targeting rehabilitation exercise became a big fitness trend around 2010. Similar to yoga, the training method relies on strengthening the body and the mind. The fitness system was developed in the early 20th century in Germany. 

Some of the poses look very familiar to the ancient Indian practice, but unlike yoga, it won’t make you flexible. Oh, and it incorporates many different machines, which might be one of the reasons it was overtaken by yoga as a lifestyle choice. After it’s short appearance in the fitness trend spotlight, Pilates remains a great exercise for strengthening pelvic, abdominal and back core muscles. And when it comes to rehabilitation after an injury, it might be the better choice.

9. Fitness video games

Unfit Healthy Buttons Showing Bad Health Or Fit

For people who wanted to get fit at home, but lacked the motivation, fitness video games seemed like the perfect solution. Devices like the Nintendo’s Wii Fit, Xbox Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation Move turned exercising into a video game. You could try to fly, do the hula hoop or dance, which all included movement. Apart from fun moving games you could also do yoga or dancing while the device kept an eye on you. Plus, the competition and digital record of your exercise supposedly kept you on track. The question is, just how many rounds of competitions you needed to do until you saw some benefits.

Today most people use pedometers and smartphone apps to keep track of their exercise and nutrition. Many of those apps offer additional fitness advice and leading boards. So you know how many steps you took during the week, but if you want to beat Jim from accounting you actually might get your body moving.

10. Tabata

Young man training on sport equipment outside

Izumi Tabata developed the hardest high intensity interval training (HIIT) you will ever face. HIIT switches intensive workout with short periods of rest. Tabata managed to reduce this training to four minutes of pure hell. The Japanese sports professor discovered that eight sets of 20 second training intervals with just 10 seconds for regeneration will lead to the biggest oxygen consumption capacity. This means you should get improved muscle tone and burned fat. 

And all that in just four minutes? Not quite. First of all, you probably should be doing more than one exercise if you want to tone your body. And there is the little fact that you need five of those workouts per week. The thing is, if you do them right, a.k.a. reaching your absolute limit with each set, you will be in pain for the next two days. So while the “4-minutes a day for a perfect body” exercise sparked lots of enthusiasm and got many people moving, the intensity scared many people of after doing it properly.