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Hairstyles. Fashion. Music.

Almost everyone can roll out a laundry list of fads-gone-by from these and other categories that sparkled and faded like shooting stars. And provided one isn’t still actively rocking those Zubaz pants or cueing up a Milli Vanilli hit, it can be kind of fun to look back and laugh at the folly of it all.

But as holiday shopping reminded us, the “As Seen on TV” aisle serves as a timely reminder that physical fitness has not been immune to the boom-and-bust cycle of pop culture. In fact, one could easily make the case that fitness has, in fact, been a fertile arena for trends and devices.

Were they all bad? Not really. Even many of the most seemingly ridiculous fitness fads were at least rooted in science and a genuine interest in delivering positive results. And if they got people moving, that certainly was good. But over time and for a variety of reasons, some just couldn't hold the public’s interest or, more often, simply wore out their welcomes.

Only time will tell whether today’s can’t-miss fitness trend or must-have device will be tomorrow’s giggle-inducing memory. “A wristband that scolded you to stand up and walk around?” “A stationary bike that cost $5,000?” Consider these ghosts of fitness past:

Tae Bo

Workout fads from the '80s, '90s still popular in Northwest Indiana

Boot camp-style workouts arose from Tae Bo.

Even if Billy Blanks’ high-energy martial arts-inspired fitness videos aren’t as ubiquitous in 2019 as they were at the height of his popularity in the late 1990s, they did get people moving and inspired plenty of the derivative kickboxing and boot camp-style fitness regimens that thrive.

“It was a good cardio workout that combined martial arts, kickboxing and dancing all rolled into one,” said Jill Schneider, fitness center manager at Franciscan Health Fitness Centers in Chesterton, which, incidentally, offers a number of kickboxing and Les Mills Body Combat classes. “Tae Bo was a fun workout that was inexpensive, easy to do from home and good for men and women of all ages.”

Step aerobics

Though step aerobics may not have its old marketing cache, the underlying exercises and principles are alive on the fitness landscape — if anything, they continue to form the basis of many exercise classes and routines.

“These types of step classes continue to be a strong draw,” said Kim Terpstra, group exercise supervisor at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster. “They offer a full-body workout with cardio/intervals, as well as ‘brain’ work, challenging participants to move their arms and legs while moving through patterns.”

Jazzercise

Workout fads from the '80s, '90s still popular in Northwest Indiana

Jazzercise has evolved into Zumba.

The name alone can inspire the kind of snickers associated with eight-track tapes and rotary telephones, but Terpstra said this type of high-energy, music-intensive group class is as popular as ever — just under a different sort of branding.

“This type of class set the tone for the low-impact movement that remains very popular today,” she explained, noting that these days it’s known as Zumba — and the classes are packed.

Sweatin’ to the Oldies

If you were older and looking for a guided fitness program to get you moving to music from another time without sending you to an early grave, Sweatin’ to the Oldies might have fit the bill. But this program lived and died with one’s tolerance for its charismatic leader — the short-shorted and perpetually caffeinated Richard Simmons.

Marci Crozier, administrative director of health promotions for Franciscan Health Fitness Centers in Schererville and Chesterton, said the philosophy behind Sweatin’ to the Oldies still packs them in at the gyms — minus Simmons, of course.

“Zumba Gold is our active aging, pre-choreographed dance class,” she said. “Our members love it!”

Thighmaster

Workout fads from the '80s, '90s still popular in Northwest Indiana

Thighmaster was a forerunner of resistance bands, meant for toning muscles.

Looking to improve your physical well-being while watching, say, an old episode of “Three’s Company”? Suzanne Somers had the answer in the late 1990s with this oddly shaped device, promising in an endless parade of late-night infomercials to tone those legs. Similarly functional resistance bands still see plenty of use today, but without the hoopla.

“Part of the problem here was that they gave misleading information,” said Debbie Paradiso, a personal training supervisor at Fitness Pointe. “They would make claims about losing inches and/or weight when it was actually meant for toning the muscle and not cardiovascular or calorie-reducing workouts.”

Shake weights

Fitness experts acknowledge that there were some benefits in these workout fads

Shake Weight used a technology called Dynamic Inertia that promised to increase muscle activity nearly 300 percent compared to a standard dumbbell. 

A ridiculous novelty from the first shake, these may never have had a heyday. When it comes to owning up to embarrassing fitness fads, shake weights, an oscillating dumbbell that purportedly made the exercise more effective, should perhaps be at the top of the list. According to exercise physiologists who reviewed the device in their prime, traditional weight and resistance training were more effective.

"The workout program of only 6 minutes is not enough exercise to actually burn a significant amount of fat, nor is there enough weight to increase muscle mass," Michael R. Esco, an assistant professor in the department of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama, wrote in a 2011 review on webmd.com. Traditional weight training provides greater range of motion, Esco's review continued, adding "the shaking motion of the device is unnatural and may cause muscle spasms that could lead to injury."

So if somebody tried to give you a set last month, pray that it was a white elephant exchange.

15 Northwest Indiana health and fitness trends to try in 2019

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