Photo of Let’s Get #Physical: Generations and Fitness

Let’s Get #Physical: Generations and Fitness

While scouring the interwebs, I recently came across an article about the rebranding of the oh-so-’80s invention, Jazzercise. Ditching the original logo, bedazzled leotards, and VHS tapes for a slicker emblem, colorful website, and women in form-fitting tanks and leggings, it’s obvious who their target market is: Millennial women.


The fitness industry is quick to target younger generations, but they aren’t the only ones who believe health and fitness are a way of life. From Richard Simmons and Ab Rollers to Jillian Michaels and CrossFit, each generation has seen and created new ways to work up a sweat.

Baby Boomers

Imagining reclining retirees on sandy beaches? Think again! Boomers continue to revolutionize everything they touch, and the fitness industry is no exception. This generation saw the advent and rise of aerobics by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, as well as the “mecca of bodybuilding,” Gold’s Gym, in 1965. Muscle Beach was a prime location to see fit bodies perform acts of strength and a stomping ground for the famously buff, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Fitness is as equally important to Boomers today as it was 50 years ago. The SilverSneakers program keeps them moving and is available to those with Medicare health plans. Fitness vacations are another way this generation is revolutionizing retirement and intermingling health with fun. From skiing in Big Sky, Montana to surfboarding in Costa Rica, many vacation packages offer an incredible array of activities that eliminate lounging and focus on moving.

Gen Xers

Let’s look past the legwarmers and spandex for a minute. This generation was all about fitness icons that became your cheerleader in the fight for fitness. Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, and Denise Austin all starred in exercise tapes you could do in the comfort and privacy of your own home. This format also allowed Xers a huge amount of control over how and when they worked out, a feature many independent Xers love.

As a generation that watched hours of TV every day growing up, Xers were the target for home-gym infomercials. Xers could tone their core with the Ab Roller, thin their thighs with Suzanne Somers’ ThighMaster, and get a full-body workout with the Soloflex machine. While these novel inventions may not have had Xers running for the phone, they did show how easy and valuable equipment at home could be. And for a generation that values efficiency, having a home gym meant saving valuable time driving to the gym. A one-stop-shop may also appeal to this demographic. Fitness clubs like Life Time Fitness have everything under the sun—equipment, group classes, tennis courts, a spa/salon, and even a café and childcare for this time-crunched group.

Millennials

Where to begin? This generation seems to truly enjoy the fitness experience. With innovative classes and fashionable activewear, Millennials have transformed working out from a chore to an exciting and social experience.

How did this come about? A major factor may be the obesity epidemic that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s—right in the middle of Millennials’ formative years when these teens were already body-conscious. The advancement of technology—video games, specifically—meant teens were spending more time on the imaginary soccer field than the one down the street. With angry parents and the Department of Health giving them slack, companies like Nintendo and Komani created “exergames,” games that simulate physical activities like skiing, bowling, and tennis. You could also show off some killer moves with Dance Dance Revolution. Hollywood also put a spotlight on the obesity epidemic with The Biggest Loser and created a fitness idol out of Jillian Michaels.

Today, Millennials make the gym work for their schedules, their bodies, and their interests. Zumba, CrossFit, hot yoga, TCX, ESP, MIA—okay, the last two are just random acronyms—but there is no shortage of boutique classes and custom gyms. And with new and innovative ideas like ClassPass, you can take unlimited group fitness classes from a variety of studios with just one monthly membership. Customization is truly the key for this demographic.

Generation Edge

This young generation is growing up amidst a variety of conflicting messages on body image—some brands tell them skinny is the only way to be, others preach that every body is beautiful, all while first lady Michelle Obama tells them to get out and move. This generation is deciding for themselves what is authentic and taking fitness into their own hands… and onto their mobile devices. Edgers are utilizing the plethora of free online tutorials to build a workout regimen that works not only for their bodies and schedules but also for their wallets. Why pay for a gym membership when the internet already holds everything you need to get your sweat on? Popular YouTube fitness channels like Fitness Blender and Blogilates and sites like PopSugar, Greatist, and Pinterest all have free workout videos, healthy meal ideas, workout gear, and even #fitspiration, images of strong bodies to motivate and inspire.

Wearable technology has also become the new personal trainer for this demographic. Fitbits, Apple Watches, and smartphones record physical activity, sleep, and calories to keep Edgers on track to meet health goals. With apps like Fitocracy, Cody, Nike+, and Zombies, Run!, Edgers can share their goals, progress, and even selfies to motivate and be motivated, adding a fun social aspect to their workout.