History of Fitness in the 1980’s- What a Rad Time to Be a Part of Gym Culture!

I’m sure a  lot of you remember the 1980’s. In an era of big hair and even bigger dreams, the 80’s was also a decade of equally big fitness trends that took over the Baby Boomer generation! 

The 80’s saw more fitness trends than perhaps any other decade (and cooler ones, if we are being honest). Many revolutionary fads hit the scene that still influence workout culture today. 80’s pop culture aside, maybe one of the most important carry-overs is how many women flooded gyms for the first time. Health clubs were popular, and were becoming a part of the broader culture. Working out in public may have started to become popular with jogging in the 70’s, but now it was totally accepted, and encouraged by 80’s culture. It was no longer only female athletes who populated local gyms. Women of all fitness levels got into gym life, something that is still highly encouraged today! 

A direct result in society’s sudden urge to workout in public? Gym *fashion*. Maybe the most recognizable decade simply because of the fashion statements made in the 80’s (and have had  its own comeback as of late), the gym was absolutely no exception. Leg warmers, leotards, spandex, sunglasses, short shorts, bodysuits, and headbands all took off and became a part of workout culture as a whole. For the first time, many gym goers cared just as much about how they looked at the gym as they did their workouts (too bad they couldn’t post it on Instagram where it would live forever, to be visited later). Plastered all over magazines, TV, and in films, gym fashion became mainstream. They questioned- were you even into gym life if you didn’t own a few absolutely fabulous aerobics outfits?

Bodybuilding also became popular, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is perhaps the most memorable and still relevant bodybuilder who rose to fame in the 80’s. And guess what? Women got on board for the first time on a grander scale! It’s hard to imagine a time in which many women would never have dreamed of lifting weights, so we do have the 1980’s to thank for making that more acceptable. Because of this small boom in weightlifting, in the present day we are able to better understand the long-term benefits that weightlifting has for BOTH men and women!

Another trend that skyrocketed in the 80’s, in large part due to the rise of movies like the 1984 Karate Kid, was Karate. Karate was a great workout, and fueled parents everywhere to enroll their children in classes that encouraged self-discipline and self-esteem! Of course, organized sports for children had been around for a long time, but this was different- it taught kids how to stay in tune with their bodies and center their minds, skills that carry over into adulthood.

Another fitness trend that took over the nation was at-home workouts. And could we really talk about the 80’s without mentioning the ever iconic Richard Simmons and fitness TV star Jane Fonda? Jane Fonda created the blueprint for at-home workout videos, and Richard Simmons is still a fitness icon today. Their fun, energic, and engaging personalities came to you, the at-home viewer, in the form of easily digestible 20 minute workout programs that quickly took over the nation! Aerobics remained highly popular in the 80’s, and those shy about going to the gym, or those that simply didn’t have time, could “stay home and get fit” to TV workouts. 

Finally, music helped shape the fitness culture of the 1980’s. Music was an important part of 80’s culture, and the upbeat and faster tempo electronic music that hit the radio was fantastic for getting pumped for a workout. The synth and bass that was absent from most mainstream music in previous decades has actually been proven to help you workout harder and run faster, and it influenced many artists in the following decades to continue to make music that is perfect to exercise to. 

So don’t mind me, I’m going to go tease my hair, put on some leg warmers, and get some cardio in to Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”.