The 3 Biggest Fitness Fads of the 1970s

The 3 Biggest Fitness Fads of the 1970s

From pet rocks to bellbottoms, the 1970s had way too many fads to even remember—and fitness fads were no exception. But as quaint as some of them seem now, they helped change people’s perceptions about the importance of exercise. Here are three fads from the 1970s that didn’t fade away.

Jazzercise and its evolution  

  • Shiny Foreheads and Workout Gear

In the 1970s, workouts were monotonous exercise routines. But all that changed with the advent of the Jazzercise craze. In 1969, dance instructor Judi Sheppard Missett created a dynamic new exercise blending dance, kickboxing, Pilates and yoga. Women danced their hearts to health while burning calories to music from the Go Go’s, The Bangles, Blondie and Cyndi Lauper.

  • New and Improved

Jazzercise is still around, but recreated as an intense calorie-burning dance routine for strength training. The company currently rakes in 100 million a year and ranks on Entrepreneur’s Top 50 Franchise list. Shanna Missett Nelson (Judi Missett Nelson’s daughter) now runs the company and classes are less about technique and more about having fun. Today, Jazzercise offers 10 individual classes that integrate strength training for women to increase bone density, muscle mass, and metabolism.

  • The New GirlForce Rocks

In 2017, Jazzercise introduced GirlForce. Offering free classes for girls aged 16 to 21, this global initiative hopes to raise self-esteem and get them hooked on the exhilarating euphoria that comes with an aerobic workout. Missett was inspired by Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign. Around 2,000 girls each month have been involved in GirlForce.

  • Benefits of Jazzercise
    • Strength training for all muscle groups
    • Excellent cardio workout
    • Burn up to 600-800 calories an hour
    • Boosts energy
    • It’s fun!

Roller Skating and its evolution

  • Roller Skates Makes a Spectacular Entrance

Roller Skates may have become a huge fad in the 1970’s, but they caught public attention way back in 1760 at an upscale London masquerade party. Belgian inventor John Joseph Merlin planned to introduce his new wheeled shoes by rolling into the party while playing a violin. Regrettably, for him, he hadn’t designed the skates to turn (possibly there hadn’t been enough practice runs?) and Merlin crashed.

  • Turning a Corner

In 1863, James Plimpton created a four-wheeled skate with cushioned trucks (carriages) allowing skaters to turn by leaning. Eventuall,y Plimpton built his own rink and established the New York Roller Skating Association to promote skating. Prior to labor laws, the ‘common man’ had worked 12-14 hours a day and roller skating was considered an upper class pursuit. Its popularity declined during the Great Depression, but resurged during WWII as a relatively inexpensive remedy for wartime gloom. Women even began going solo to roller skating rinks, which was previously unheard of.

  • Disco Inferno

Disco ruled the 1970s dance scene. Since more people seemed to be on skates than in sneakers, a groovy form of skating and dance music called Roller Disco developed. Movies like Skatetown USA, starring a previously unknown Patrick Swayze, and Roller Boogie, featuring the wildly popular song,“Roller Disco” dominated the culture.

  • Everyone Likes Roller Skating—Even the Amish

The Amish live simple lives, foregoing electrical machinery and technology. But though cars, motorcycles and bikes are shunned, Amish communities have used roller skates for decades. Rollerblades, however, are still up for debate.

  • Health Benefits of Roller Skating
    • Easy on the joints: Skating is a fluid motion similar to running or dancing–without the harsh impact
    • Great as a cross-training exercise: Roller skating is equivalent to jogging in terms of health benefits and caloric consumption
    • Calorie (fat) burning: You can burn 300-600 calories by skating 60 minutes
    • Improves moods: From music and lights in a rink to sunlight and fresh air outside, roller skating is fun
    • Works the arms and legs: Skating movement and balancing works the legs, glutes, arms and core
    • Great for improving balance, agility and coordination: Roller skating strengthens abdominal and lower-back muscles as you hold your core steady
    • Strengthens the heart: The American Heart Association recognizes roller skating as a heart strengthening, aerobic exercise
    • Improves endurance: Roller skating increases muscle endurance
    • Social: Roller skating is a social activity

Running/Jogging and its evolution

  • From Jogging to Marathons

The 1970s gave way to marathons, fueling the rise of the running/jogging culture and the running shoe market that still dominates today. It suddenly became about much more than fabric and laces.

Until the 1960s, nobody but competitive athletes ran unless they were in track–or being chased. The average Joe didn’t do marathons or competitive runs. As far as the general public knew, they really didn’t exist, except for elite competitors. With the advent of the “fun run” the general public suddenly perked up to the joys of running.

Brands like Adidas, Puma, and Asics dominated the sneaker market, but every company heard the call for performance-enhancing running shoes. Nike was relatively new but their use of innovative designs and materials ultimately ushered in the arrival of modern-day running sneakers, which changed the landscape of running. Today more people than ever run as their main form of exercise.

  • Health Benefits of Running
    • Guards your heart: Running even five to 10 minutes a day at slow speeds provides a drastically reduced rate of cardiovascular disease
    • A natural high: We’ve all heard of endorphins, but your body also produces endocannabinoids during runs that, chemically speaking, are like THC
    • Running strengthens your joints: Contrary to popular belief, runners face less risk of osteoarthritis. The impact of running strengthens your bones and muscles
    • Feel the burn: Running burns a lot of calories–about 12.2 calories per minute on a 10-minute mile for a person of average weight.
    • Tones those legs: Glutes, thighs, quads, calves, hamstrings and thighs all get a complete workout when you run
    • The core thing: Build your six-pack and your inner core
    • Do it anywhere, anytime: The beauty of running is that it literally can be done anywhere–no equipment or gym required
    • Join the group: The running community is not only strong, but encouraging, determined and focused
    • Reflection time: Just you and the road offers time to think and problem-solve, refresh and maybe help you grasp that elusive answer
    • You can do it right now: There’s not a ton of training you need to do to start running

Fads, by definition, are short-lived. But these 1970s fitness crazes have actually stood the test of time. All three are still popular today, though several have evolved from their origins. Their commonality is what we all need to live healthy, happy lives: Each of them has made fitness fun.