The shape of things gone by

Sunday Times - - Insight | Obsessions - Fonda fads An app a day Where it all be­gan

Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Jane Fonda launched the aer­o­bics craze in the ’80s with three home ex­er­cise videos, start­ing with Jane Fonda’s Work­out in 1982. These were in­sanely pop­u­lar and sold more than 17 mil­lion copies. Stats are not avail­able for how many of the peo­ple who bought the videos ac­tu­ally watched and fol­lowed them reg­u­larly, but there was a cor­re­spond­ing rise in the sales of leg warm­ers and leo­tards. The aer­o­bics move­ment had fol­low­ers pant­ing and puff­ing well into the ’90s. “Namby-pamby lit­tle rou­tines that don’t speed up your heart­beat and make you sweat aren’t worth your while,” said Fonda. Fitness-fo­cused films star­ring shapely stars such as Olivia New­ton-John and Jamie Lee Cur­tis in tights and head­bands helped keep it alive, but, like all fads, it even­tu­ally died down.

In the past few years, how­ever, the odd gym has of­fered semi-ironic “retro­cise” classes, so maybe there’s life in the leo­tard yet. The app called Re­set, avail­able in the US by pre­scrip­tion only, claims to help pa­tients man­age var­i­ous sub­stance ad­dic­tions by teach­ing cog­ni­tive be­havioural cop­ing skills. But is there an app to com­bat ad­dic­tion to apps? Male ath­letes com­peted naked in front of some 40 000 spec­ta­tors at the orig­i­nal Olympic Games in an­cient Greece, so per­haps we can blame them for our six-pack as­pi­ra­tions. Then again, feast­ing and friend­ship were a big part of the sport­ing fes­ti­val, so it wasn’t all games and no play.


A Ro­man copy of an­cient Greek sculp­tor My­ron’s statue ‘Dis­cobo­lus’ (‘The Dis­cus Thrower’). My­ron’s orig­i­nal bronze has been lost. An early replica lost its head and later copies show the dis­cus thrower fac­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

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