Fun Fitness Flashback: 80s Aerobics

By , SparkPeople Blogger
(Disclaimer: As I write this, it's 4:55 p.m. and I need a blog post for tomorrow. While I guarantee this post will entertain and delight you, don't expect anything too deep.)

When you think of aerobics, what comes to mind? Tights, thong leotards, spandex and sweatbands? Well, you're not alone. Aerobics hit the mainstream in the 80s, and the "fashion" that went along with it (think: Olivia Newton John's "Get Physical" video) was probably just as famous as the signature moves, which could best be described as a cross of dance, calisthenics, and athletic training that is choreographed and set to music.

I recently stumbled upon a set of YouTube videos from the 1987 "National Aerobics Championship" where groups of, um…aerobicisers (?) competed for the title "America's Best Aerobic Athlete." These routines are mesmerizing.

If you're ready for a fun fitness flashback, you'll love the videos embedded below!

Update: The original video I posted here has been removed from YouTube by its owner, but I did find another version of the video where someone dubbed some newer hip hop music into the soundtrack instead of the original sound. You can see it by clicking here.

And here's an example of one of the routines:

We've come a long way, baby! The hair, the music, the moves—this is 80s aerobics at its best. I wish I would have seen these workouts when I was developing ideas for my own "80s Aerobics" workout (on the Cardio Blast DVD), but I don't think I could hold a candle to these guys! If your workout routines resemble these videos in any way, it's time for a fitness intervention!

On a serious note, despite looking a bit corny, these routines are tough. It would NOT be easy to replicate a workout like this and keep up with it! They are fast-paced and anyone who actually followed a routine like that would have to get some great results. But I'm glad that fitness has changed so much since 1986. I can't imagine fitting in as a fitness instructor if I had to wear that much spandex and teach people to exercise like this. It would not come very naturally for me.

So I have to ask: Did you ever try aerobics during the 80s craze? Do you love it or hate it?

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CECELW 9/17/2020
OMGN! This is a hoot! ahahahah Report
Awesome video! Thanks! Report
Great article. Report
A great article! Thanks! Report
All I can say is "Wow!" I sure wish I had their energy! Report
I remember Report
These two are really great! Report
Yep, I remember that phase! I was too crunchy to get into it, but I can see some of the moves in some of today's exercise fitness routines. Report
This one made me tired, just looking at it. I have aged and do not feel as though I can keep up this pace. Report
I wasn't a fan of aerobics, I had a hard time following the moves not being naturally coordinated. I did have the outfits though and wore them for all the different workouts I participated in. Leg warmers! Report
I loved those workouts. Has anyone tried Les Mills Body Attack. Many of the moves remind me of the moves we did in the 80's. Report
the memories....the outfits, music and aerobics I didn't miss a day....or the beat. Wish I had those days back..... Report
Yes I did aerobics during the 80's, early 90's so I know it is a very intense cardio workout! Make sure you warm up properly and start slowly to build your confidence and strength! Report
In college my roommate had a Jane Fonda audio tape. We exercised in our dorm room. I loved the original tape, I can still hear the music...." Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Can You Feel IT?!" . Report
I taught fitness through the 80's, 90's and trained many newbie instructors . I took requests for music, made my own tapes, and filled a double gym with smiling faces. We wore only black, white, red or Gray , no leg warmers and took our jobs to heart. Not a huge fan of disco I often used rock and we had s blast ...the new classes are dead serious, or punishing adventures that lead to injury ...we stressed safety, continuing education, and team spirit. Report
Totally tried it. You forgot one important accessory...leg warmers. Report
There was a tv show called something like Aerobicise. It was mesmerizing. Never worked out to it though. Report
Hi Nicole and Friends! :) I love the 80s Aerobics Craze so much, that I have started a team devoted to Retro Aerobics on here!!! Called The Spark Retro Aerobics Fans!!! :) :D Hope that y'all join me!!! :D :) Report
I remember seeing these on tv, movies and news. Back then I was a slim 30-year-old and didn't think I needed to "exercise" outside of normal life activities.
BOY, how I WISH I had gotten into the habit THEN. Maybe I wouldn't have piled on the poounds and it wouldn't be SO HARD NOW !
BLESSINGS, Sparkers ! Report
Yes! I did do those 80's aerobics routines! But I didn't wear those weird clothes with the diaper looking things. I wore my shorts and a tank top. Sometimes I am glad I have no fashion sense... it can come back and bite you on the butt years down the line. Report
Anyone remember the short videos on Showtime called Aerobicise? It was scantily clad women moving slowly in "aerobic" moves with the camera zooming in on breasts, butts, and crotches. A breathy voice would remind us to "Breathe." It was nothing short of soft porn.

Ahhh, I miss the 80s. Report
Didn't do the spandex but loved the aerobic dance routines! Report
oh yeah, I remember it well. My University gym was full of us (approx 200 students) doing group aerobics - and on a Friday afternoon - we'd skip class just to join in the fun. Report
My kids and I used to do Richard Simmons videos!! Report
We still grapevine with's one of my favorite moves! Report
I had a few outfits and I grapevine on occasion.....SMH! Report
There is one thing you don't see in this group of exercisers and that is no one is over weight. The old exercises must work because they sure looked trim to me. Love the golden oldies. Report
I am so glad I got to see this one. Sure brought back the memories. Yikes!!! Report

Dancing to the oldies was my style back then . . . and still to-day! Report
OMG!~ I have that turquoise workout suit... and the tights from Jazzercise! Report
My aerobics instructor was Leslie Sansone back in New Castle, PA. Loved those bulky, burgundy colored leg warmers with tights under them and pale pink, soft leather workout shoes. Kept those things around for years, but after several moves, finally got rid of them. We did not dance like those on video but kept quite active. Report
I danced in the 80's and still dance now, for exercise and fun, doesn't matter which "fad" comes out, or will come out. Cheaper that way, and get's the results just fine. All the ads in the world don't tempt me at all, never have. Not necessary, really. Report
I WAS one of those aerobics instructors in 1984-1994!!! I taught dance and step aerobics. I still have many of my outfits in the back of the closet and every once in a while I take them out!! My leg warmers really give me a kick!! I never wore a headband, but my hair was long and up in ball on top of my head! I was so fit back then and I have alot of great memories of the girls in my classes and how much fun we always had everyday. I loved going to work and I lost 75 lbs. and could eat what I wanted cause I burned so many cals. a day. I'm pretty sure I would do it again if it came back around and I could fit into any of those thong Danskins, tights, and leg-warmers!! Report
Aerobic videos--hated it. Report
I love aerobics, but never tried it during the 80's craze. I was very tiny and had not desire at the time to try aerobics. Now I enjoy taking aerobics class.

I loved my aerobic classes. They made me feel good, and more coordinated!! Didn't really help with the left-right thing cause I was usually going in the wrong direction -- BUT, I always got a good workout! And thoroughly enjoyed it.

The only thing I'd change is -- what was I thinking wearing a leotard!!???? Report
I loved 80's aerobics! I was so thin then too. LOL! Report
I have some of the old tapes, but the only form of exercise I've ever really enjoyed is dancing. I could dance for hours. Report
Must have..shiny blue leotard... Report
HA! this is hiLARious!! *sigh* I kinda miss the 80s. even if I wouldn't wear the fashion from back then, it's a never ending source of entertainment for me to look back on them fondly!! :-)

but I just want to point out for the record, though, that that's not hip hop (even though there is a rapper). that's more like house music or something...

carry on! Report
I thought the routine was ridiculous. Sorry....

I wonder what they look like today. Probably still very fit. Report
I loved the aerobics of the 80s! Oh, I had this great leotard outfit... "singlet" style shorts which I wear with a bandau under the straps. Report
I did all the videos and Jazzercise in the eighties. Last year my DH and I cleaned the basement, I found the box of leotards and leggings and couldn't bring myself to pitch them. I want to be able to wear them again (not out mind you). 4 years ago got back into Jazzercise again and it is a fantastic workout. The teacher is wonderful and makes the hour and 10 minutes go by so fast. Most of the music is current sometimes she brings back oldies upon request. It's still a blast. Report
That brought back memories... too funny. Report
I did high impact aerobics in the '80's 5 - 6 times a week. I also was a dancing fool in those days. I was in the best shape ever! Unfortunately I had a huge disappointment and became severly depressed, quit going to the gym and turned to food. It took me many years to make a change and now that I have I couldn't be happier ~~~ Yes, I remember those days, loved them and would do those same classes today if they were offered! Report
Hello you folks,

I used to exercise alot in the 80's when I was a kid in my one piece leotards, tights, and leg warmers. I still do sometimes. LOL. ;)

I'm a man. I don't know why most of us guys hate aerobics or have no desire to even try it. But I for one love it.

Bless you all and take care.

Warmly yours,
Chris Report
The only one I cared for was Richard Simmons Sweatin to the Oldies and Dance Your Pants Off. The others invovled too many complicated moves and hard cored stomping and jumping. Does not go well with someone with DJD of the knees and lower back. I have no cushion. Currently I am consistently doing Leslie Sansone's WATP series, Denise Austin's Blast Away the Pounds, and just received the Spark 10 minute Fitness DVDs-these are great to work in q quick exercise stent. I also like the Arthritis Foundation's People With Arthritis Can Exercise(PACE) Report
hey i did em all jane fonda richard simmons denise richards - it was great. right now i am interested in more of the sexy latin dances... Report
I'm an 80's baby! I love it! Report
oh my gosh i am killing myself with this video how funny - I was that bad! I grew in the 80s- disco Hy Report