Oh, the things we'll do to get a good workout—anyone still doing those pole-dancing classes?
The folks at Benenden, an insurance company in the UK, put together a video showcasing a full 100 years of fun (and wacky) fitness trends to promote it's health care services. They also launched a fascinating history site to elaborate on the ways women have worked out over the years.
Did you know that light stretching was once considered a powerful habit on it's own? According to Benenden, stretching wasn't just a warm up for women in the 1910s: It was "seen as a serious form of exercise that could reap specific end results. Namely, developing and improving the hips and, believe it or not, easing constipation." In the 1920s, women would do their stretches in full make-up and the loose-fitting dresses of the era.
Then came the 30s and 40s, when moves like leg lifts and sit-ups became popular. These moves were a bit more challenging, but they could still be performed at home, without causing too much sweating, which was considered horribly unfeminine at the time, Benenden's history report states.
In the 50s and 60s, women turned to fun gadgets: the Hula Hoop (which is still relatively popular these days) and then something called the "Trim Twist,” a small wooden board that you could rotate back and forth with a twist of the hips. We’d imagine you should soundtrack this workout with the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.”
From there, the class craze took hold, from the jazzercise (70’s) on to aerobics (80’s), Tae Bo (90s), "street dance" (00's) and finally, Zumba.
Some of these seem to be focused specifically on British trends—we've never heard of "street dance" as a gym trend, though it seems like it borrows heavily from American hip hop dance. So it would be interesting to see if the same workouts were popular in the U.S. through the years. Perhaps some workout historians here in the States will make us a companion video?
In the meantime, this has really whet our appetite for exercises of yore: we’re going to queue up some vintage workout videos on YouTube and pull on the leg warmers this weekend.