America’s obsession with physical fitness may have started with President Dwight Eisenhower’s creation of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956. The program was created as a response to some alarming statistics relating to the physical strength of America’s youth. Specifically, some 60% of American children had failed a physical fitness test, compared to just 9% of European children.
The average amount of calories Americans consume on a daily basis has increased by hundreds over the past few decades, making it harder to stay in shape. While exercise is important, diet is the primary factor in weight gain or weight loss.
As American waistlines expanded, an array of products hit the market promising to be the best, fastest way to help people slim down. Many relied on celebrities who were already in shape or other so-called “fitness gurus” to sell. Upbeat hosts told people how to best work their bodies on television, then VHS tapes, and now on DVDs and online classes.
As technology advanced, many workouts became more high-tech. Americans quickly moved beyond barbells. Hula hoops were one of the first new fitness products to hit the market. Other machines like the treadmill, stationary bike, and NordicTrack took activities normally reserved for the outdoors and allowed consumers to get the same type of workout without leaving the home.
While there is no way to determine how many people were embracing an exercise fad in any given year, we attempted to match each fad with the year that it first appeared or the year it became one of the most popular ways for Americans to exercise.
To determine the exercise fads the year you were born, 24/7 Tempo reviewed workouts or exercise trends that were created or became popular in each year between 1956 — the year President Eisenhower established the President’s Council on Youth Fitness — and 2018. We compiled a list of fads from various sources, including fitness magazines, newspaper articles, and online publications. The popularity of an exercise product or technique was determined based on the amount of promotion the fad received, either through advertisements or in the media.