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The 25 Biggest Fitness Fads of All Time

The most laughable and most functional fitness fads.

1. Bowflex Home Gym

If there’s any piece of fitness equipment that gives the NordicTrack a run for its money in terms of becoming a very expensive clothes hanger, it’s the legendary Bowflex Home Gym. Rising to popularity in the early 1990s the Bowflex Home Gym ditched the idea of a machine that used weights or pulleys in lieu of a complex combination of polymer rods that helped to deliver constant resistance and tension as you pulled them. They were touted for their space-saving ability and their versatility as an exercise apparatus, and they became insanely popular in the 90s and 2000s before a series of recalls (and an unfortunate deadly incident) impacted their popularity. But no amount of recalls in the world could possibly take away the memories of seeing that same Bowflex Home Gym infomercial every night. The machine looked sleek, had great marketing, and did provide a somewhat substantial workout without the use of conventional weights. The company behind the Bowflex (now called Nautilus, Inc.) also created the popular TreadClimber that, while it may have led the way for the popular elliptical machines we see in so many gyms now, had to live in the shadow of the Bowflex Home Gym.

2. Tae Bo

Every single one of us has been there and we’ve all fallen to the charismatic allure of Mr. Billy Blanks. Created by Blanks, Tae Bo (the word is a combination of tae kwon do and boxing) is an aerobic exercise routine that soared to mass popularity in the 1990s and didn’t stop until just a few years ago. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that Tae Bo videos still sell incredibly well. By 1999, Blanks had sold over a million copies through the use of a memorable infomercial. And the influence of Tae Bo didn’t just extent to the group of people buying the videos. No, no. It was much larger than that. Soon the “cardio-boxing” trend became a huge part of fitness routines throughout the country. Gyms began offering cardio kickboxing classes and Blanks even went on to create his own series of Boot Camp videos. The best part, however, is that Tae Bo actually works. Sure, it’s gimmicky and silly and you’re certainly not going to beat anyone up with it, but it’s a great aerobic workout that will definitely help you burn calories. Now, go ahead and break out those Tae Bo tapes you’ve been hiding under your bed. We know they’re there. Just embrace it and feel the burn.

3. Vibrating Belt

If you watch enough episodes of American Pickers, chances are you’ll see them come across one of the classic 1960s vibrating belts that became the fitness fad of the decade. A huge machine with a big, bulky strap that was to be worn around the waist was designed to jiggle the living crap out of you until all your belly fat melted away. The gritty black-and-white pictures from the decade of women lined up in day spas and health clubs are absolutely adorable, but they don’t erase the fact that these vibrating belts didn’t work. They were great if you wanted to get a good shake going in your body, but they did zero to help you with fitness or weight loss. The scary thing is that vibrating belts (albeit more high-tech versions) have made a bit of a comeback in recent years with products like the Vibro-Belt and TheFlexBelt popping up on late night infomercials. Sigh. NEXT: A body by someone else means you don't do the work! >>


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