Fitness Fads, Good and Bad

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
January 18, 2024
Fitness Fads, Good and Bad

Some fitness fads are just bad, while others offer a good workout with a little novelty and extra expense. But don’t expect anything to work miracles.

Here’s the secret of exercise. You have to get up and move until you sweat and feel your muscles tiring. Then you do it again. And again. The latest fitness craze can provide a little thrill and novelty, but often the newest exercise trends are a distraction and plain silly.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Are There Exercises to Lose Belly Fat?


In the bad fitness fads camp

Products that do nothing or people quickly abandon include:  

Vibrating belt

Back in the 1960s, people bought a bulky strap you put around your waist to jiggle your belly fat away. Surprise: It didn’t work. Higher-tech versions have come back, with names like Vibro Shape Belt and The Flex Belt. The bottom line is that you don’t lose belly fat by sitting. This is one of the silliest entries in exercise fads history.


This device, popularized by actress Suzanne Somers, went between your thighs. You squeezed. In infomercials through the late 1980s and early 1990s, you saw people squeezing while they watched TV. That didn’t work well to improve overall fitness. But the Thighmaster remains famous.

The Shake Weight

Instead of lifting a dumbbell to tone your arms, you would shake this little vertical weight. The motion required made men look highly indecent in public. No one could be sure the device built arm muscles, but it did get lots of laughs on late-night TV. Let’s call this the dirtiest entry in the exercise fads annals.

Ab Roller

Doing sit-ups and crunches tones your abdominal muscles. If you jumped in on the idea of an Ab Roller when it was the latest fitness craze, you still did sit-ups and crunches, but somehow you felt like you were getting more bang for your time. There were many variations, ranging from an Ab Wheel to Ab Coaster. The short answer is that the crunches do the work, not the device.

8-Minute Abs

In the 1980s, a slew of videos promised you that doing abdominal exercises for eight minutes a day would give you an impressive six pack (back then, you didn’t hear as much about your core).  There was no magic to the eight minutes, although doing ab exercises regularly does, in fact, strengthen them.

Toning shoes

This idea — odd-looking shoes that promise to help tone your body while you walk — remains one of the current fitness fads. Getting good arch support in a sandal is an excellent idea, as it will allow you to walk longer. The shoes make your legs work as if you’re going uphill, which means you work harder.

But no flip flop is a good idea. Most people pronate too much, meaning that their feet roll inward too much as they walk. Flip flops won’t stop that. If you have lower back pain or a hip problem, these shoes could cause you more pain.

Good fitness fads that may not have staying power

These movements are effective, technically in the category of good fitness fads, but they’re probably not the way you’ll keep exercising over a lifetime.

Boot camps

In the 1990s, someone invented the idea of pretending you were in the Marines to get fit in a month or so. Ex-military officers often taught the classes, which involved intense exercise with little rest.

Boot camps have had a recent surge in popularity. Whether they’re worth the trouble depends on your desire to be motivated in this particular way.

Exercising intensely definitely has benefits. Some people say that going whole hog brings you to a new fitness level that is so rewarding you’re motivated to stay fit. But if you’re going to abandon your exercise discipline after a month, you would be better off starting off slow.

The Bowflex home gym

This apparatus became popular in the early 1990s, with sales fueled by a couldn’t-be-avoided infomercial, reaching fad status in the 2000s. A combination of polymer rods gives you resistance as you pull, offering a workout without conventional weights.

But too many of them fall into disuse, like other elaborate pieces of home gym equipment that become the latest fitness craze.


This company promises their products — cycles, a treadmill, and a rowing machine — can help you tap into your fitness potential. The products come with touchscreens that connect you with livestream, on-demand classes, and a virtual community over the internet.

Their products and services are expensive. Many people swear by them, most likely because they’re dedicated to fitness. But, like with other home gym products, Peloton products are great only if you’re going to use them long-term.

Tae Bo

Combining Taekwondo, a martial art, and boxing, Tae Bo is an aerobic exercise routine invented by fitness guru Billy Blanks. People bought the video, then flocked to gyms offering cardio-boxing, which was similar. It’s a good workout, despite all the faddishness.

What should you do?

In the end, the best exercise routines are the ones you’ll keep up. You need to aim for a combination of aerobics, muscle building, and stretching, and find ways to build exercise into your daily life.

Walking and cycling rather than driving and using stairs instead of escalators or elevators are two great strategies that deserve to be more popular. The main lesson of exercise fads history is simple: You have to do the work.


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: To Lose Weight, Lift Weights


January 18, 2024

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN