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Put the Fun Back Into Fitness with These 5 Old-School Exercises

Looking to revitalize your fitness routine? Trade in that trendy equipment and technology for the simplicity of these long-forgotten favorites

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Remember back in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, when fitness was fun? You were either Sweatin’ to the Oldies, kicking and punching with Tae Bo, or Jazzercising in leotards and legwarmers. Each workout was more like attending a mini party than muddling through a complicated chore.

Yet somehow, over the last few decades, the fitness industry has morphed from light-hearted moves that certainly got the job done to intense CrossFit sessions, boot camps and ninja-style obstacle courses. “Lately, everyone seems to be doing these crazy single-leg box jumps when most people could really benefit from focusing on building foundational strength and using proper form,” says Megan Smith, CSCCA, an ACE-certified personal trainer who serves as the fitness director at Camelback Village Racquet & Health Club in Phoenix. “One of the unexpected benefits of quarantine was that many people had to pause their gym workouts and get creative with whatever they had on-hand—for example, roller blading, jump roping, and a lot of body-weight exercises. Now that gyms are reopening, I’m seeing a lot of people still doing the exercises they’ve been enjoying for the last year and combining the COVID workouts and gym workouts.”

Aside from working on foundational strength and building upon it, getting back to the basics also helps to prevent injuries and overtraining. Plus, it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane, to fitness activities that once brought you joy—just because there are newer options available, doesn’t mean these old-school workouts are any less effective.

Here’s a handful of old-school workouts that sure to get your heart rate pumping and put the fun back into your fitness:

  1. Les Mills on Demand BODYSTEP. For more than 50 years, millions of people around the world have been working out with four-time Olympian Les Mills—and the brand’s offerings have grown through the decades beyond the original BODYPUMP program to include martial arts, HIIT, yoga fusion, and dance fitness. But for a fun fitness trip back to the ’80s and ‘90s, check out the step-style BODYSTEP classes. Participants have been known to burn upwards of 540 calories in a 55-minute workout while kicking their fat-burning systems into high gear and enhancing their endurance. There are 20-minute classes to help ease in beginners, and there are no specific equipment requirements to do the program. A one-year membership starts at $9.99/month and includes access to 15 different class types.
  2. Jumping rope. Want to really inject some fun into your fitness routine? The key is as close as the nearest playground. “Many of us think of jumping rope as a child’s activity, however there are many benefits of skipping for people of all ages,” says fitness expert and “jump rope queen” Janine Delaney, PhD. “Jumping rope is one of the best activities for burning fat and calories and can be done at any time anywhere. Not only is jumping rope a great cardiovascular activity, but it also increases libido and helps maintain focus; two important factors as we age. Contrary to popular belief, jumping rope is not hard on the joints, but rather helps to improve bone strength—especially in the feet and ankles. To top it off, jumping rope is an extremely affordable activity and you can take it with you wherever you go!” If you’d like a more structured program, download the Crossrope app (free 30-day trial) and consider purchasing one of the brand’s weighted jump ropes.
  3. Jazzercise On Demand. Believe it or not, Jazzercise is alive and well 50 years later—and pumping out fun new fitness  routines on a weekly basis. The Burn Series offers 30-minute sessions targeting different muscle groups through strength-training, while the Dance Sculpt 50 is 50-minutes of floor barre-inspired movements mixed with high-energy dance cardio (perfect for Zumba devotees). And if you’re putting your heart into the moves, you could burn 500 calories a session. There’s a 14-day trial available and Jazzercise On Demand costs $24.99/month.
  4. Roller skating. If you’ve been on TikTok or to a park lately, you’ve no doubt noticed that traditional roller skating is making an impressive comeback. Why? Because it’s an inexpensive and fun way to get fit. “If you don’t want to walk or run, but want to exercise outside, roller skating is a great option,” says Smith. “It’s not as hard on the joints as those other options, either.” According to Roller Skating Association International, moderate roller skating for one hour burns about 300 calories (600 calories if you’re skating 10 mph), causes 50% less stress to joints than running, and is recommended by the American Heart Association as an aerobic fitness sport.
  5. Circuit training. Remember doing fitness assessment drills of basic moves in gym class? There’s still nothing more comprehensive than a circuit-training session, which is essentially what that was. Smith has designed the following workout, which can be completed at home and with very little equipment—all the moves rely on bodyweight (read: no dumbbells required) and the only equipment you’ll need is a simple jump rope for a little cardio burst (if you don’t have one, simply replace that exercise with jumping jacks).

Fitness Fun: Jump Rope and Body Weight Workout  

Repeat 3 rounds (rest 15-30 sec between each exercise)

  • 50 Jump Rope
  • 40 Body Weight Squats to Calf Raise or Squat Jump
  • 30 Forward Lunges (15 each side)
  • 20 Push-ups (feet or Knees)
  • 10 Crunches
  • 5 Standing Donkey Kicks (5 each side)
  • 50 Jump Rope
  • 40 Single Leg Glute Press (20 each side)
  • 30 Lateral Lunges (15 each side)
  • 20 Side Plank with Rotation (10 Each)
  • 10 Crunches
  • 5 Standing Superman (5 each)
  • Rest 1 min