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Be Well.

A health and wellness blogazine for Auburn University Students. 

The Evolution of Group Fitness

The Evolution of Group Fitness

Trust me, I'm the last one who wants to imagine my mother in a neon leotard, fist pumping to Van Halen. But if your mom was into fitness in the '80s, this article might bring back a memory or two. 


From Jazzercise to HIIT, group fitness lovers around the globe have seen a lot. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is group fitness’ ability to get people moving and having fun together. Now that modern group fitness has seen almost a half-century of progress, let’s take a moment to stop and appreciate the fitness formats that have dominated the decades.

3000 B.C. - Yoga

Yoga has predated all forms of group fitness. According to Yoga Basics, the practice is at least 5,000 years old. Ancient yoga was a religious practice of the Hindu people.

Today, Western yoga uses the tradition and technique provided by the ancient practice, while instructing participants on how to live a lifestyle of health and meditation. Classes at Auburn University are said to “enhance your overall strength, balance, stability and flexibility” while leaving members “feeling centered and peaceful.”

1970s - Jane Fonda

Now let's fast forward a few millennia to Jane Fonda, the founder of the modern group fitness movement. As a Hollywood actress, she used exercise to warm up. The cast of her movies wanted to learn her warmup routine, so Fonda led them through her workout on set — including (but not limited to) aerobics and neon leotards.

This revolutionized a male-dominated fitness industry and resulted in a fun, new way to get more people exercising. Eventually, videos were taken of the exercises to share with others.

1980s - Jazzercise

While Buns of Steel, Step, and High/Low aerobics exploded in the 1980s, Jazzercise is the most notable new format because it created the first group fitness business. People who trained for Jazzercise owned their own businesses and had to generate income through fitness classes.

The company was founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Misset in California, but Jazzercise classes are still around today. The Jazzercise company calls their format "a high-intensity dance party that fuses cardio, strength, Pilates, hip-hop, yoga and kickboxing.” If you check out Jazzercise classes today, you may not need to wear your favorite leg warmers, but you’re sure to get a great full-body workout!

1990s – Workout VHS

The Beachbody company introduced a revolutionary approach to fitness. Instead of teaching group fitness classes in person, the sessions were organized into an at-home VHS workout series. Now anyone could work out from the convenience of their own homes — no gym membership required.

This made exercising a lot cheaper and available to more people. New formats were introduced including Turbo Kick, Insanity and Hip-Hop Abs.

2000s - Zumba

The turn of the century left the group fitness world in a dance craze. Zumba gained roaring popularity in the early 21st century with its simple training and easy choreography.

With its Hispanic roots, the movements gave every participant the opportunity to embrace their inner dancer for a fun cardio-based workout. Although Zumba was a branded business, each instructor got to give their own flavor to their class. And everyone was wanting to teach!

Present - HIIT and Athletic Conditioning

Although Zumba and other dance styles are definitely still alive today, there has been a shift to more high intensity coaching formats. The most popular formats at the Auburn Recreation and Wellness Center are Butts and Guts and Tigerpump, which are both high-energy strength-training classes. Another notable shift that occurs in the world of group fitness is from equipment-based classes to bodyweight classes.


Interested in learning more about group fitness? The Auburn Recreation and Wellness Center offers over 40 formats of the hottest fitness trends of 2017. Check them out here!

And as always,

Be well, Auburn.


Photography: Julia B.

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