Grab your leg warms and spanx suit, the ‘80s workouts are back and better than ever, to get you into your best shape yet.
Who remembers the seminal television workouts from the ‘80s? From Jazzercize, Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, and, of course, the guru of ‘80s exercise herself, Jane Fonda and her iconic aerobic workouts.
To this day, we praise the glorious stars of the small screen who entice us with their enthusiasm to get into shape while having fun – they were ahead of their time, rebutting the idea that exercise was a punishment for enjoying life, but rather the ultimate act of taking care of yourself by getting into the groove (ankle weights optional). They were larger than life and glamourous to boot, in head-to-toe vibrant athleisure. Think neon headbands, thick leg warmers and bright bodysuits layered over patterned leggings. Dopamine dressing at its finest.
Claire Burlison, founder of dance exercise classes Clubbercise, believes ‘80s style workouts are making a major comeback for 2023.
“Famous for mini trampolines, leg warmers and extremely high-cut leotards, the ‘80s have had a significant impact on our idea of fitness, and the trend for nostalgia grows we’re now seeing ‘80’s style workouts make a comeback,” she says.
“With more focus than ever on creating a fitness routine that you genuinely enjoy, it’s no surprise that fitness classes inspired by the ‘80’s are on the rise, with their characteristic fun, high-energy routines, banging tunes and fabulous outfits enough to get even the most exercise-shy person in the gym.”
She continues, pointing out, “’80’s exercises are also notoriously accessible, with high-energy and low-impact routines that target the entire body and can be completed in the home with minimal to no equipment.
“If you want to try an ‘80’s style workout, there are a few key things you can do to make it authentic. First, you’ll want to focus on doing high-intensity, cardiovascular exercises such as callisthenics like jumping jacks, push-ups, and sit-ups to get your heart rate up. You can then incorporate equipment like dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands to add variety and intensity to your workout. It’s all about feeling that burn before you start to feel amazing!”
The Netflix hit show Stranger Things aided Kate Bush to nabbing her first ever top-10 hit in the US with Running Up That Hill, while it dominated the charts in Norway, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Austria. And it’s not just Kate Bush whose music is feeling the love – as Elton John released a remix of Hold Me Closer with Britney Spears. It’s the music that really showcases the ‘80s workout as fun, dynamic and feel-good for 2023 fitness lovers.
And Claire agrees, saying, “Make sure to play some upbeat, high-energy tunes to get yourself pumped up and ready to go – a great excuse to listen to some guilty pleasure tracks. You can also try incorporating some fun dance moves or aerobics-style routines to add an extra level of fun to your workout and to get the classic ‘Jazzercise’ vibe.
“Overall, the key to a successful ‘80’s style workout is to focus on intensity, full-body movements, and having fun, so put on your favourite leg warmers, crank up the tunes, and get ready to sweat!”
If you’re looking to get your groove on at home, try Retrosweat online (teased hair and leotards optional) or Emkfit and Growwithjo on Youtube – their positivity is infectious! Sisters are doing it for themselves.
‘80’s workout glamour
They say, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. But the covers of iconic ‘80s workout VHS tapes are a true representation of what’s inside the box: a parade of colour, glamour, and astute finesse.
One of Jane Fonda’s hit workout tapes, Jane Fonda’s Workout, completely changed the way we not only view VHS, but also workouts in April 1982. It was the first non-theatrical videotape to top the sales charts and was a big hit for the next six years, thanks to Jane’s trademark dazzling smile and feel-good encouragement through every movement.
Viewers are taken through a whole workout routine, from the warm-up to the cool-down, alongside her leotard-clad crew. Swept up in the fun and cheer of the crew, you don’t realise the impact the workout is having on your body bar the feel-good hormones dancing around your body, until a few weeks later when you start to see the results.
Jane Fonda’s Workout, alongside an array of exercise videotapes led by charismatic workout gurus, is notable not only for the tantalising fashion style, but also for the way the workout is conducted. Throughout the session, the at-home followers are asked to measure their heart rate with fingers on their wrists to ensure that they’re in the right range. That was the ‘80s predecessor of the modern-day Fitbit — going analogue, if you will.
A cult for ‘80s workouts
2004 was just the start of what we can call a cult to the ’80s workout videos and their spirit. Today, the hype continues and is growing in popularity across the online landscape.
Look at intense interval training (IIT), which was the backbone to Jane Fonda’s successful workouts. Though in many of her workouts intensity can be adjusted to higher or moderate levels (hi HIIT workouts!), she firmly believes that solid aerobic and resistance training is the key to “firming waistlines, arms and buttocks”.
One review found significant decreases in body fat percentage during both interval training and moderate-intensity continuous training (MOD). What’s more, there were no significant differences between interval training and MOD on body fat percentage reduction. However interval training did cause a significant reduction (28.5%) compared to MOD in total absolute body fat. These types of technique have become popular today, as shown in the popularity of HIIT workouts over the past few years.
During the ‘80s, Jazzercise established itself as one of the hit workouts providing fun while staying fit. In 1969, 25-year-old jazz dancer Judi Sheppard Missett started teaching simple routines to jazz and Top Forty hits. What was originally called Jazz Dance for Fun and Fitness soon grew into a renowned workout routine that was renamed Jazzercise and was trademarked.
Jazzercise had its 50-year anniversary in 2019. Today, Judi Sheppard Missett and her daughter are still teaching the art of jazz and aerobics, and there are many other clubs around the world that practise it. Some of them still embrace the iconic ‘80s fashion to add more oomph to their workout routine – because who doesn’t want to immerse themselves fully in the fabulous and vibrant nature of ‘80s workout fashion?
Judi Sheppard Missett isn’t the only one who has transcended her legacy. Jane Fonda continues producing workout videos up to this day, even at the age of 85. In 2010, she revamped her appearance and fashioned a short haircut, a belted leotard, and black yoga pants. The more toned-down look dominated her videos for the next few years — so chic, too.
Today, Jane Fonda is keeping up with the modern content channels and can even be seen on TikTok. She’s kept the outfit as well as the short haircut, which is now nuanced in grey, and she is looking as glamorous as ever. In her TikTok introduction video, Jane said: “Hello TikTok, my name is Jane Fonda. I’m going to bring back the Jane Fonda’s Workout.”
Re-starting a workout trend while spotlighting community groups doing the groundwork to help spread the word for saving the planet? Sign us up, Jane Fonda.
Jane is bravely reaching out to new audiences while playing with nostalgia – and helping you move your body too.