6 of the best fad exercises from the 80s and 90s and how to do them now

3 min read

Spin classes, aerial yoga and battle ropes; you’d be forgiven for thinking that fad exercises are a modern thing. But that’s not the case!

Think back to the eighties and nineties when step boxes were everywhere, celebrity workout videos were all the range and all manner of contraptions were created to help you achieve your desired body.

Here, we’ve put together some of the most popular exercise fads from that era and even looked into how you can do them today. Get the boombox and leg warmers out…

1. Step aerobics

Aerobics was massive in the 80s and step aerobics took this popularity on to a new level.

The aim was to step over and around the box step, following an instructor’s choreographed moves to music.

Unlike many 80s workouts, step has stood the test of time and is still offered in many gyms as an exercise class. You’ll see the box steps stacked up in the corner!

However, the music has been modernised since then. No synth-driven beats nowadays!

The original step class was invented by Gin Miller, an American woman who came up with the idea when an orthopaedic doctor suggested she stepped up and down on a milk crate as part of rehabilitation for a knee injury.

Gin has recently updated the format by creating the KUSHH! It’s like a step but with a soft, unstable surface that really tests your balance.

2. Jazzercise

Jazzercise has been around since the sixties but it was in the eighties that it really took off.

Put simply, it is choreographed moves to music. It was never designed with professional dancers in mind; rather as a way for normal people to exercise and have fun as they were doing it.

Jazzercise isn’t just a fad that disappeared 30 years ago, however. It’s still alive and well today, with a dedicated following of people.

It does have a slightly unfair stigma attached to it of middle-aged mums, but it’s a fun exercise for people of any age. Dancing along to music in a non-judgemental space – nothing wrong with that!

Search for your nearest Jazzercise class here.

3. Tae Bo

Take a bit of boxing, mix it with a little taekwondo and you have the 1990s fad known as Tae Bo.

It began in 1982 as a class inside the garage of martial arts fan Billy Blanks.

Tae Bo stands for Total Awareness of Excellent Body Obedience – not a name that rolls off the tongue – hence the Tae Bo moniker.

It quickly became an infomercial and video sensation and ultimately spawned kick-boxing, a fitness club favourite.

However, Tae Bo fell so much out of fashion that you’ll do well to find a class that teaches it today.

All is not lost, though. Billy Blanks still sells his DVDs and has his own Instagram account, so you can get the full eighties experience at home anytime!

4. Indoor cycling

The exercise bike has long been a gym staple, but in 1991 two entrepreneurs developed a new breed of indoor cycles, created routines with them and set them to music.

The result? Spinning.

Within a short amount of time, the exercise was a complete fad, with followers all over the country signing up to give it a go.

You can still enjoy that spinning experience; spin classes are available in many gyms, with people from all walks of life trying it out.

‘Spin classes’ can now be done in the comfort of your own home, thanks to modern-iterations such as Peloton, which deliver live and on-demand classes to a specially-equipped bike.

5. Celebrity fitness videos

Big hair, legwarmers and leotards; celebrity fitness videos scream the 80s!

Back in the day there was a real craze over aerobic workouts, aimed in particular at women who preferred exercising in their living rooms rather than hitting the male-dominated gyms.

Jane Fonda was the most famous creator of these fitness videos; they were workouts you could do at home, with a focus on the female body.

Her workout video is one of the most popular VHS fitness videos of all time.

You can still do Jane Fonda’s workouts now, and you don’t have to dust off the video recorder! You can order DVDs of them or find them on YouTube.

6. Thighmaster

If you grew up in the 1990s, chances are you had to step over your mum’s Thighmaster on your way to grab a snack from the kitchen.

The Thighmaster was a contraption of two looped metal wires, padded on the outside, which you squeeze between your legs to tone them up.

It was multi-purpose and could also be used for other parts of your body, such as the chest or arms.

The Thighmaster was light, portable and could be used pretty much anywhere, even in the office as you were working!

If there’s not a 90s relic knocking about your home, you can get your hands on your own from Amazonfor under £15.