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Fitness Fads

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Exercise principles are pretty simple, so you’d think there are only so many things you can do to improve your fitness. However, free enterprise always seems to come up with new ways to entice people to pay money for the latest thing. For those readers too young for this to be obvious, here are some examples that can teach some lessons.


Before roughly the 1920s, most of America earned its living by the sweat of its brow. Leisure time was spent resting from the exercise of work. Then came the “physical culture” movement; think guys in one-piece workout outfits with big mustaches lifting one-piece barbells. Those guys invented the cable machines still used in gyms today. But it was the Charles Atlas magazine ads of the bully kicking sand in the face of the 97 pound weakling that really turned on the public to muscles, as well as the profit-making potential of fitness.


Soon after followed Joe Weider with the popularization of bodybuilding. Then came Kenneth Cooper and Jim Fixx with running. Weight training and cardio – what else could there possibly be? Dressing up and selling weight training and cardio. Jane Fonda aerobic workout videos for the home, Suzanne Somers ThighMaster, Tae Bo classes.


These days, boutique workout studios, such as CrossFit, are popular, as well as the big gyms, which also combine cardio and weight training. Medical authorities now recognize the benefits of both kinds of exercise, so the public has increasingly accepted the idea of doing both. The other trend is the use of wearable devices that measure fitness and performance, such as FitBit. Whether these devices end up in the dust bin of history like some of the older devices remains to be seen. However, FitBit has sales of over $2 billion per year, so it has certainly tapped into the public desire to get fit in whatever way can help.


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