The Craziest Fitness Trends of the Last 100 Years

Ever since the Olympics of Ancient Greece, humanity has striven for physical perfection through varying forms of exercise and, like most things, there are particular exercises which have proved more popular than others. The concept of ‘fashionable’ exercise is admittedly humorous but undoubtably a continuous phenomenon. From hula hooping to Zumba, the Western World have gone wild for fitness trends, only to ditch them when the latest model comes to town. In the fast-paced modern world, this phenomenon moves ten times faster and, like clothes fashion trends, eventually the only way to make something new will be to reinvent it. We’ll look back at some of the hottest trends of the last century so you can get a sneak peak of what lies ahead. Just remember, you heard it here first!


The 1920s offered a “modern” spin on the corset with the Molby Revolving Hammock, which promised to stretch your muscles, straighten your spine and make you a whole lot calmer to boot. Additional advantages for women included an hourglass figure with a tiny waist and “fuller chest” – passive fitness at its best! Active fitness took over in the late 1950s and brought with it lots of fun in the form of the Hula Hoop. This nifty device became one of the most popular fitness props of all time, resulting in several countries imposing a ban on the humble hoop for reasons such as “inciting immorality” and demonstrating “the emptiness of American culture,” ouch. The Yanks weren’t deterred, however, selling over twenty-million Hula Hoops during the first four months of production. Hula-Hooping strengthens your core muscles and can double as an aerobic style workout, too. This fitness fad has already begun to make its comeback, with celebrities such as Kelly Osbourne waxing lyrical about the advantages of hooping.



The 1960s turned a popular dance move – The Twist – into a form of exercise, wherein a simple machine constructed over rotating pieces of board, offering fun and the opportunity to tone and firm the body. The Trim Twist was advertised as a “modern, effective way to side-step inactivity,” claiming to affect almost all the muscles in the body with noticeable results in 30 days. Wether or not this fad produced results is questionable, but one thing is for sure – they had a killer marketing plan, promising “No starvation diets, No exhausting exercises,” just old fashioned fun!


Speaking of fun, the 1970s embraced rollerskating in a big way, with Olivia Newton John praising those wheeled shoes for keeping her legs in shape in 1979. Jazzercise, aka Zumba’s grandmother, and aerobics were the following hot exercise trends which in turn influenced one of the hottest fitness fads of the late 1990s: Tae Bo. Fitness icon Billy Banks achieved the impossible by making aerobics-style exercises fashionable for men as well as women, by throwing in a dash of martial arts. Though dance was a key element to this workout, kicks and punches were well incorporated, and no one could deny that it produced results. I say, bring it back!


The standout exercise method of the last century has to be Prancercise, that came into being in the 1990s. Invented by Joanna Rohrback, this fad was born from a moment of inspiration, wherein she was power walking along the Boardwalk and began “naturally rocking and twisting my whole body… my arms started following the rest of my body, in rhythm. The next thing I knew, I was nearly dancing”. Thus, Prancercise was born, modelled after “the strength and beauty of a horse”. With this inspiration, four key moves became central to this regime: the Prancercise Walk, Trot, Gallop and Box. Though Rohrback spoke passionately of the benefits of her program, claiming it to be “the most satisfying, holistic and successful fitness programme one could hope to experience”, others were sceptical. One man even went to the trouble of calculating the amount of calories burned in each Prancercise move, noting that the Trot burns around 5.2 calories per minute, comparable to walking fairly briskly with weights, and that Gallop 5.86.


Whilst there are certainly some gems from the past due for a comeback, the modern day offers some pretty wacky fitness options too. Imagine how someone from the 1920s would react to hearing about Bikram Yoga, wherein people exercise on purpose in 40 degree heat! Or, the sexy workouts that became popular in the 2000s, from pole dancing, to strip aerobics to twerking, we’ve definitely had our share of questionable workout fads. Still, enjoying exercise is half the battle and if all else fails, Japan have come up with a rather nifty pair of sunglasses that they claim will help you to loose weight. Research has shown blue to be the least appetising colour so, by tinting the lenses of these glasses blue, in theory this should deter people from eating and thus help them to slim down… intriguing!