100 Years of Fitness in Under Two Minutes…So, THAT’S What Exercising Looked Like Back Then!

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

100 years of exercise

It’s no small feat to sum up 100 years of fitness trends in under two minutes, but a recent video from Benenden UK has proved up to the task.

Taking us on a brief historical journey through exercise history, it’s sure to get you feeling inspired – although you probably won’t want to exercise in heels and a skirt!(1)

100 Years of Fitness in 100 Seconds

Modest Beginnings

Beginning in 1910, exercises typically consisted of stretches, especially for women, who were discouraged from any immodest exercise practices.


Things got a little more liberal in the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until the 30’s and 40’s that women’s exercise trends started focusing less on modesty and more on physical impact.

“The new wave of exercise started in 1930, with the founding of the Women’s League of Health And Beauty by Mary Bagot Stack,” writes Benenden.

“During her early life in India, she was quick to notice how easy it was for women to bend from a waist unconstrained by the restrictive fashions worn back home in Ireland.”

Stack’s approach, “it could be argued, is a similar sentiment to that pushed by fitness gurus today – exercise for health and wellbeing, not just weight loss. In fact, you could say that Bagot Stack created the very first exercise class.”(2)

Hula Hoops And Beyond

The 1950’s saw the advent of the hula hoop craze, which swept up children and adults alike. While children saw the hula hoop as purely a toy, many adults quickly caught on to its potential as an exercise aid.

Another device that gained popularity during this time was the bongo board, which was also used in work-out routines.


The 1960’s saw the advent of women-only fitness centers, as well as simple devices like the Trim Twist, which were designed for convenience and pleasure in addition to helping the users lose weight.

Aerobics Take Over

“The 1970’s marked another departure for health and fitness,” says Benenden. “Gone were the passive exercise machines and Trim Twists. In their place, taking the nation by storm, was the phenomenon called Jazzercise.”

Jazzercise is a dance-based exercise routine that emphasizes aerobics and flexibility. It was followed quickly by other aerobic routines in the 1980’s – along with those signature 1980’s colors and, of course, leg warmers!

Dancing And Fighting

In the 1990s, the biggest exercise craze by far was Tae Bo – taught everywhere from fitness classes to high school gym, this trend combined taekwondo and boxing styles to create movements designed to give a good full-body cardio workout.

In the early 2000’s, dance as a workout routine made a comeback, but not the jazz-inspired dance routines of the 70’s. This was street dance, popular in school yards, raves, and local neighborhoods. Part of the fun of street dance is it’s customizability – “b-boys” and other street dancers prided themselves on their ability to improvise.

Which brings us to today – what’s the biggest craze sweeping gyms and fitness studios? Zumba, of course – another dance-based fitness regimen that feels more like time spent in a nightclub than time spent in the gym. Performed to upbeat hip-hop music, zumba gives a good full-body workout while still maintaining a sense of fun.


It’s interesting to see how our understanding of fitness has evolved over the years – who knows what fitness trends the future has in store for people who love exercise!


  • [1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hr17Dn-Ikk
  • [2]https://www.benenden.co.uk/100yrsfitness/index.html#one930s-5730