No Pain, No Gain: The Keep Fit Crazes Of Yesteryear

Exploring the health and fitness trends of the past – those that were passing fads and those that stood the test of time.

January is the time for new resolutions and determinations that this year – yes, definitely this one – will be the time when you whip your couch potato body into shape. More people join the gym in the new year, most of whom then revert quickly back to normal once the determination to change gives in to the more persuasive desire to carry on as usual. But for those who stick it out, they will find themselves entering into a strange new world of furiously enthusiastic pilates and yoga teachers, gym instructors and technical equipment that sounds – and often looks – like something out of the Spanish Inquisition. Still, we know that these methods work, right? That they are not just passing fads? Well, perhaps. But it’s worth remembering that in years gone by, there were other methods of losing weight, building muscle, keeping fit and attaining the body beautiful, and all these were the creation of health and fitness experts who swore that they had been tried and tested, researched and scientifically proven. Indeed, some had (though others were eccentric, fly-by-night woo-woo of the maddest sort) and some continue to find favour today; others are now seen as hilarious and ridiculous because, well, they are hilarious and ridiculous. But perhaps no more so than some of the machines and methods currently in use. If history tells us anything, it’s that tastes will change and today’s fitness craze will be tomorrow’s laughing stock.

Here, then, are a collection of images from the past that show the developing trends of exercise over the decades, leading to the bodybuilding obsession of the 1970s and into1980s when the keep fit craze exploded into the everyday. It’s interesting to see how, during that decade, fitness became a global obsession, with movies and hit records exploring the craze while even the pin-up girls swapped lingerie and swimsuits for lycra and leg warmers. Enjoy these photos as you tuck into that pizza…

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