Society’s perception of “fitness” and “exercise” has changed dramatically through the ages. Prior to the 1950’s, exercise wasn’t necessarily considered “cool”. It started off as a mandatory part of the school curriculum, with the option to participate in school sports or become a part of a sports team. The availability of print media and television to the masses spurred the exercise revolution as people were aspiring to look like the actors and models gracing the pages of fashion magazines and playing glamorous characters on the silver screen.
The Evolution of Modern Fitness infographic, recently published by www.todaysfitnesstrainer.com (click here to view the infographic), highlights many examples of how celebrities over the years have changed the face of fitness and made exercising “cool”.
Below are examples from “The Evolution of Modern Fitness” that highlight celebrities and how they had an impact on the fitness industry.
1938 – Superman (the original “Man of Steel”)
Before the widespread availability of television in the late 1950’s, comic books spurred the imagination of many young minds with images of superheroes and role models during a time of turmoil and unrest (i.e. The Great Depression and World War II). Superman was the first role model that motivated boys (and young men) to gain strength and improve their physique. In combination with the famous Charles Atlas print advertisements the motivation for a chiseled physique spurred the need for fitness and exercise solutions.
1940 – Vic Tanny Centers
Vic Tanny’s empire totaled 84 centers between 1947 to 1960. Vic Tanny was the first company to use celebrities to endorse and market membership to their clubs. Over the years Vic Tanny contracted Cher, Lynda Carter, Farrah Fawcett, Raquel Welch, Victoria Principal and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
1941 – The Jack LaLanne Show
The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest running television exercise program. Although it started out as a program to help promote his health club and various fitness products it ended up becoming a staple for a large following of housewives who used basic objects found in the home (like a dining chair) to follow his workouts in an effort to get fit and stay healthy.
1977 – Pumping Iron (with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno)
This docudrama is about the world of bodybuilding with the focus on the 1975 Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia competitions. The film highlights the rivalry between Arnold Schwartzenegger and Lou Ferrigno (which led to the role of “The Incredible Hulk” for Ferrigno and “Conan the Barbarian” for Schwarzenegger).
1982 – Physical (by Olivia Newton-John)
This Grammy-winning music video showcases Olivia Newton-John in a leotard and half-naked men exercising and working out in a gym setting. The video appealed to both men and women and set an expectation for what both men and women are looking for.
1987 – Perfect (with John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis)
If the movie were made today it would consist of a YouTube video of a group fitness class at 24 Hour Fitness, combined with the Facebook posts and Twitter feeds about the participants in the club. The film takes the physical aspects of group fitness/aerobics and the drama of young love and puts them into one 90 minute film. With John Travolta (“Saturday Night Fever” and “Staying Alive”) and Jamie Lee Curtis as sex symbols of the 80’s the film doesn’t disappoint as they both sweat and gyrate their hips from beginning to end.
1987 – Pumping Up with Hans and Franz (presented by Saturday Night Live)
Dana Carvey (Hans) and Kevin Nealon (Franz) play a pair of Austrian muscle men who mimicked Arnold Schwarzenegger with fake muscles, grey sweatsuits, weight belts and really bad Austrian accents. This skit came out at a time when Arnold was releasing films such as “Predator”, “The Running Man”, “Red Heat” and “Twins”.
1991 – The Thighmaster (by Suzanne Somers)
Suzanne Somers became the face of fitness and discreet products for women wanting “perfect thighs” and “toned arms”. The release of the Thighmaster spurred the surge of low-cost exercise equipment that could be used in the comfort of your own home.
1992 – Shape Your Body Workout (with Cindy Crawford)
During the 1980’s and 1990’s Cindy Crawford was among the most popular supermodels, gracing the covers of magazines, strutting down runways for the most sought after designers and was the spokesperson for brands like Revlon. This exercise video was a huge success and was the first exercise video released by a supermodel. Other supermodels releasing exercise videos include Elle Macpherson, Christy Brinkley and Heidi Klum.
1997 – Total Gym (with Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley)
Although the Total Gym had been in use since 1974, the first infomercial aired in 1997 with Chuck Norris and Christy Brinkley (both long time users of the product). Total Gym is now the longest running broadcast infomercial in history with over four million units sold.
2004 – The Biggest Loser (with Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper)
The Biggest Loser is a show that follows the journey of overweight contestants as they attempt to lose the highest percentage of weight in an effort to win a cash prize. Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper have gained significant celebrity from their roles in the show as “America’s Personal Trainers”. To date there have been 70+ winners of “The Biggest Loser” around the world.
2004 – P90X Workout (with Tony Horton)
Up until the release of P90X, most exercise videos and programs were tailored to women. P90X was the first successful comprehensive at home workout program that appealed to the male market segment. Tony Horton has become the role model for men of all shapes and sizes to lose weight, get stronger, get leaner and feel better! As of November 2010, 3 million copies of P90X have been sold for an estimated $420 million.
2012 – Brazil Butt Lift (endorsed by supermodel Allesandra Ambrosio)
Although Victoria’s Secret hasn’t marketed an exercise video to date, the “Brazil Butt Lift” is the next best thing. Endorsed by Allesandra Ambrosio, Brazilian supermodel, this exercise DVD is gaining lots of attention! The Brazil Butt Lift Facebook fan page is seeing significant growth in numbers as the page is sees an increase of an average of 1500 fans per month.
With the changing face of media and entertainment it will be interesting to see how the fitness industry will continue to evolve and how celebrities (both entertainment, fashion and sports) will play a part. As a society of convenience and technology we need motivation to take action to decrease the prevalence of obesity and increase one’s quality of life.