#TBT Hula Hooping, Jazzercise and More Kooky Fitness Fads from the Last 7 Decades

With outdoor runs, spin class, boot camp, boxing and 14 different kinds of yoga, exercise is all about finding the option that works best for you. But what about those workouts that, uh, didn’t exactly stand the test of time? Here, seven of the best, worst and kookiest fitness trends from the 1950s to today.

A Peek Inside the Boxing-as-Fitness Revolution That's About to Go Mainstream


1950s: Hula-hooping

Dating back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, the humble hoop picked up speed in America in the 1950s. Despite being a pretty good workout (the Mayo Clinic estimates that a woman hooping for 30 minutes can expect to burn around 165 calories), the trend faded fast. Probably because—let’s be honest—it takes some serious skills to Hula-Hoop for half an hour straight.

1960s: Crazy Machines

While Hula-Hooping actually could transform your body if you did it for long enough, the techier trends of the 1960s (well, techy by ’60s standards) weren’t quite as proven to work. Machines like massage belts (for which you wrapped a thick band around your midsection or butt and just stood there while vibrations “massaged” your fat away) and the Trim Twist (which involved standing on a rotating plate and swiveling your hips) ruled the market. That is, until people started realizing that they were spending a whole lot of time and money for what amounted to zero results. Better luck next decade.

1970s: Jazzercise

A-ha! Back to a real workout. Jazzercise, a frighteningly perky mix of jazz, ballet, kickboxing and Pilates, burst onto the scene in the ’70s, beginning the craze of choreographed exercises set to music. Thank you, Jazzercise. Without you, we’d never have Zumba. 

1980s: Aerobics

Invented by military doctor Kenneth Cooper as a way to prevent coronary artery disease, the ’80s aerobics boom is more frequently associated with its two most famous practitioners: Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. Think Jazzercise, but with higher-cut leotards, bigger hair and leg warmers. (It is a good workout, though. Have you seen Fonda recently?)

1990s: Workout Videos

Remember VHS tapes? Chances are if you were into fitness in the ’90s, you had at least one copy of “Buns of Steel” proudly displayed in your finished basement. This decade was also the advent of the celebrity trainer, as demonstrated by Billy Blanks, the high-energy, Oprah-beloved workout guru behind the hugely popular Tae Bo videos.

2000s: Spinning

Though the first indoor cycling studio opened in Santa Monica in 1989, the spin-class craze hit a fever pitch with the founding of SoulCycle in 2006, with men and women shelling out upwards of $35 to spend 45 minutes in a dark, candlelit room with blasting music and a shouting instructor. Whether you think it’s inspiring or terrifying, there’s no denying SoulCycle’s influence on the fitness world. 

2010s: Boxing

If spinning was a way for well-coiffed workout enthusiasts to get their sweat on in a fairly cushy environment, this decade has seen something of a return to a grittier form of exercise: boxing. Void of the eucalyptus towels and salon-quality shampoos, boxing gyms are relics of a more badass time. Plus, there’s just something about pounding on a bag for an hour after a long, stressful day…