Fitness Videos
From Jane to Hip Hop


June 2010

by Lisa James

Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne broadcast his first exercise program in 1951. The idea of working out in relative privacy and comfort had its appeal, and Americans have been stretching and squatting in front of the tube ever since. LaLanne was also the first to provide recorded exercise guidance in the form of a 1959 phonograph record (remember them?) to be used with a fitness device called the Glamour Stretcher.

But TV-based fitness really took off in the 1980s, when the presence of a videotape player in nearly every home made it possible to mass-market prerecorded exercise routines. LaLanne was joined by a bevy of imitators, some of whom went on to start exercise empires of their own.

Just as video technology has moved from VHS to DVD, the exercise-video industry has kept pace with every new fitness trend of the past 25 years. Here at Energy Times, we wanted to take a look back at how far we’ve come since the days of leg warmers, spandex and big hair.

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Late 70s

VHS wins the home video war after fighting off Betamax, a rival format, and becomes as
popular as shag carpeting

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1982

Jane Fonda, who took up aerobics to speed recovery from an injury, becomes the first exercise superstar with “Jane Fonda’s Workout”

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1983

The first strength training videos appear; Richard Simmons gets everybody movin’ to a disco beat (shorts and tanks rule!)

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1984

Kathy Smith’s first VHS, “The Ultimate Video Workout,” hits the market

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1985

Gilad Janklowicz, a former Olympic hopeful and Israeli military fitness expert, starts sculpting bodies; dancercise, based on fast-paced dance moves, also appears

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1986

Denise Austin focuses on a familiar female problem area with “Hips, Thighs and Buttocks”
(many fitness-video pioneers, such as Austin, are still extremely popular)

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1987

Leslie Sansone, the “Walking Woman,” walks onto the fitness video stage;
“Buns of Steel” is first released

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1990

Cathe Friedrich’s “Step N Motion” videos provide advanced routines for the home exerciser

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1994

Everybody balance: the first stability-ball video is released

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1996

Tony Little, who bills himself as America’s Personal Trainer, starts promoting the Gazelle Glider—
one of the best-known tie-ins between videos and exercise equipment

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1999

Fitness videos rev up with kickboxing and Billy Blanks’ martial arts-based Tae Bo

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2000

Pilates, which focuses on breathing and strengthening the body’s core, goes to video

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2001

The New York City Ballet allows exercisers to go classical

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2003

In June DVD rentals overtake VHS for the first time

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2007

Shaun Thompson (Shaun T), a Jersey guy made good in LA as a dancer and
choreographer, creates “Hip Hop Abs”

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