12-28-15-Shake WeightMonday, December 28, 2015

The top two New Year’s resolutions of 2015 were to “Stay Fit and Healthy” and to “Lose Weight”, according to an online Nielsen survey. This is nothing new—Americans have been passionate about getting in shape for decades. Take a look back at some health trends, fitness flops, athletic icons and more, from the time Troy became a city to the present day.

1950s: The Kraus-Weber Physical Fitness Report stuns the nation by revealing that a whopping 57.9% of American kids failed strength and flexibility tests—the failure rate of their European counterparts was only 8.7%. In response, President Eisenhower establishes the President’s Council on Youth Fitness. “Father of Fitness” Jack LaLanne hosts a television program to guide viewers through a series of callisthenic and weight training exercises.

1960s: Muscle Beach-alum Joe Gold opens Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, which becomes a weight-lifting mecca for serious bodybuilders. Weight Watchers is founded in 1963. During the 1960s and 70s various iterations of the “Vibrating Belt Machine” promise to jiggle fat away, or at least improve the look of muscles.  The Five Basic Exercises (5BX) developed by the Royal Canadian Air Force allow soldiers, athletes, and housewives alike to attain fitness through five basic exercises performed in eleven minutes each day. Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s groundbreaking book “Aerobics” is published and Judi Sheppard Misset creates the dance-based Jazzercise program.

1970s: This was a great decade for cardiovascular health—Jacki Sorenson’s Dance Aerobics classes take off, Richard Simmons opens his Slimmons exercise studio and Frank Shorter’s gold medal-winning Olympic marathon inspires a major running boom, with an estimated 25 million new runners taking up the sport. Those hoping to achieve fitness more passively try Sauna Belt Trim Jeans, the “Amazing Space Age Slenderizer” guaranteed to take up to six inches off the waist in three days—or your money back!

1980s: “Jane Fonda’s Workout Book” is a huge hit and Fonda’s exercise videotapes have a major impact on VCR sales—prior to the release of the “Jane Fonda’s Workout” video, only about 5% of American households contained a VCR. About 17 million copies of Fonda’s first workout video are sold, and VCR purveyors enjoy a corresponding upsurge in their product sales. Bally Manufacturing purchases the Health and Tennis Corporation of America and Lifecycle in 1983— by 1987 it is the largest fitness center operator in the world. Gin Miller makes stepping up and down much more fun by adding music: Step Aerobics is born.

1990s: Actress Suzanne Somers shows consumers how to achieve shapely legs with a contraption called the Thighmaster. Mary Swanson creates the SilverSneakers program, designed to help older adults stay physically active. Already popular in fitness clubs and with celebrity clients, Billy Blanks releases his first Tae Bo workout video. The practice of Pilates enjoys an enduring revival and Curves workout studios for women are launched. Life Time Fitness is founded by Bahram Akradi, its first club opening in Minnesota.

2000s: Fitness flops include the Shake Weight, Sketcher’s muscle-toning Shape Up shoes, and Enforma’s “Exercise in a Bottle”. Fortunately, there are also legitimate ways to torch calories as Zumba and Functional Training classes become mainstays at health clubs nationwide. President Barack Obama changes the name of the council established by Eisenhower to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition (Presidents Kennedy and Johnson also changed the council name during their terms).

Today, Troy residents can have access to any number of nearby workout facilities, from health clubs like Life Time Fitness (the Troy location was the first opened in Michigan) to studios specializing in yoga, Jazzercise, Crossfit, Krav Maga, and more. In April, one of the Village staff members will attempt to run a 100-mile trail race to raise money for the Troy Historical Society. Visit httpss://www.youcaring.com/troy-historic-village-467855 to learn more!


Jack LaLanne, 1961

Richard Simmons, 2011 (photograph by Angela George)

Vibrating belt machine from JCPenney

Trim Jeans ad, 1971

Shake Weight



Research Quarterly. American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation

Volume 25Issue 2, 1954


President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition


CBC Archives


American Council on Exercise (ACE)


Sauna belt trim jeans advertisement


Kansas Historical Society


Billy Blanks Tae Bo Fitness


Life Time Fitness Corporate Site



To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at ed@thvmail.org.

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