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We take a look back at the big boom in exercise videos in the 1980s…


Those who lived through the 80s will remember the rise of celeb aerobics. Plugging videos, albums, books and exercise clothing ranges, we were treated to Jane Fonda, Linda Evans, Judi Sheppard and many more, livening up our living rooms with home fitness and Jazzercize.

Before we knew it, everyone was decked head to foot in lycra, spandex, legwarmers and headbands – along with a generous smattering of hi-gloss lippy, frosted eyeshadow and larger-than-life hair.

But what exactly turned the world onto aerobics and why was it so successful?


Low L impact aerobics offers as many benefits b as extreme exercise routines. Dr Hilary Jones of GoodMornin­gBritain says, “Low impact exercise counts, too. You’ll Y relax your brain, fall asleep faster and sleep better. Keeping active also means better levels of concentrat­ion, even when you’re tired.”

Arthtritis sufferers can benefit from low impact daily routines, too. “Stretching and movement can decrease d pain, increase your range of motion, and make muscles stronger to increase endurance,” adds Dr Jones.

Abby Hepworth from PUREWOW.COM who tested the old version of the Fonda video, says, “Jane doesn’t mention losing weight, toning up or indeed much of anything about bodies over the course of the entire workout. She doesn’t talk about ‘getting a bikini body’ or ‘shrinking your waist’. She just tells you what moves to do, counts your reps and lets you forget about why you’re doing this in the first place. Instead, you just have fun.” But fun isn’t to be confused with easy, Abby stresses. “Many parts of the workout were much harder than I’d anticipate­d, although the arm exercises aren’t exactly hardcore. I added light weights to make them tougher.”

The use of weights is vital for older and perimenopa­usal women. F45 trainer Jess King ( F45TRAININ­G.CO.UK/MILLHILL) says, “Weight training can be essential for bone strength, lowering the risk of fractures and osteoporos­is.”


One of Jane Fonda’s hit VHS tapes, JaneFonda’s Workout, was released in April 1982 and completely changed the way we viewed exercise. It was the first non-theatrical videotape to top the sales charts and was a huge hit for the next six years.

Selling over 19 million copies worldwide, Fonda explained the reasons behind the video, stating that gyms were predominan­tly for men with exercise focusing on weights and callisthen­ics, much of which was off-putting for women looking to improve their health. Now known as “gymtimidat­ion”, Olivia Tyler, clinical fitness regional lead at Nuffield Health, says, “Whether it’s a gym, studio, class or centre, stepping foot into a new environmen­t can be intimidati­ng.”

But VHS was the gamechange­r.

It was a perfect vehicle to launch the exercise and fitness industry to a whole new generation of women. Fonda offered the promise of a lean and healthy body with regular practice. Exercise could be done safely at home – no equipment needed.


In Fonda’s tape, viewers are taken through a full workout routine, from the warm-up to the cool-down, along with her leotard-clad crew – setting the formula for most celebrity workout videos.

In fact, Fonda workout videos are the foundation of many circuit routines, gym classes and group exercises to this day with a formula that suited every body type and age.


We can’t round up the wonders of the 80s without mentioning the music. Many of the 80s workout videos used contempora­ry music which are today’s classic hits. With Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, Sylvester, Survivor, Van Halen, The Jacksons and REO Speedwagon, and the best techno of the day to move to, motivation comes easy.

In fact, good music is well known to boost exercise performanc­e, something any experience­d Les Mills gym-goer or spin enthusiast will be familiar with. Throw in dance moves, jazz hands and some disco and you have workout heaven.


Although h the pandemic led to a fitness boost for many, a recent survey for Deep Heat ( MENTHOLATU­M. CO.UK/BRA NDS/ DEEP- HEAT), Tracking the Nation’s Fitness, showed that four in 10 (41%) respondent­s felt that increase ed home working had reduced their activity levels ac cross the day, swapping daily commute moveme ent for long periods in endless video calls.

Accor rding to the Deep Heat report, lack of time, money and a motivation are often cited as barriers to exercise . So could a return to 80s fitness be a solution? ? Maybe it’s time to dig out those legwarm mers, do a YouTube search for Jane

Fonda workouts, w backcomb your hair and reve el in some feel- good fitness fun: it’s cheap, c low-impact and time-frie endly – and with classic discod to workout to in priv vate, what’s not to lik ke?


No strangers to satin, 1980s workout queens didn’t shy away from bright colours and accessorie­s in their videos (including sun visors and tight belts). With neon colours everywhere, black didn’t feature much in aerobics classes, emphasisin­g form-fitting comfort instead.

Step forward breakfast TV stars such Diana Moran, BBC’s Green Goddess, famed for her satin sheen emerald leotard, or the quirky style of TV-am’s Mad Lizzie whose bouffant hair remained bafflingly impervious to her energetic movements.

Mr Motivator (Derrick Evans) followed in the 90s on GMGM-TV TV and continued the trend with bat-winged, harem-panted flamboyanc­e to guide the sleepy British population to wakefulnes­s.

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