The narrative around weight loss has shifted for the future. Now, getting fit is less about how it makes us look and more about the health benefits and improving wellbeing. Companies are also recognising the importance of exercise on employees’ wellbeing and productivity.

Following the 70-year reign of our late Queen Elizabeth and her 96 years of age, she has seen many changes over the years. She was a lover of the outdoors and nature, in appreciation of this and the positive benefits on her long health, we look at how exercise and our well-being have changed over the past 100 years and what the future of exercise holds.

The changes over the last 100 years of exercise highlight how it has become more inclusive and how it is valued by everyone although researchers say 100 years ago, people got five times more exercise every day, just during daily living. We are all more sedentary and with the new hybrid workforce, the commute and lunchtime breaks have all but diminished. Companies are looking for ways to get their staff moving and increase employee engagement.

What the past 100 years of exercise looked like.

1920’s –  Women were striving to achieve the slender ideal body shape. The treadmill, which was first invented in 1818, by engineer William Cubit had become a popular activity along with exercise bikes in gyms, with many people using them fully clothed! Tennis and golf were taking off as recreational classes for the upper classes.

1930’s – 1940’s – Workout classes became the craze with Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein opening studios. Rubinstein famously said, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.” Upmarket clients were given instruction on skincare, cosmetics and gentle fitness regimens, which included light stretching, dancing, yoga and other movements mostly designed to improve posture. At the time, the medical community didn’t recommend exercise for women’s health.

1950’s – 1960’s – Yoga and other fitness classes became popular. Women finally swapped dresses for workout leggings and leotards. Exercise programmes on TV were geared towards the housewife working out at home during the day.

1970’s – 1980’s – Jogging became a popular sport which became more comfortable for some women when sports bras were introduced in 1977.  In 1982, Jane Fonda launched her first exercise video over the decade, the video sold 17 million copies around the world and triggered several follow-up series. Fitness clubs became increasingly more popular for men and women.

1990’s – 2010’s – Body conditioning workouts and step classes were big in the 2000’s. The home gym became more popular. Pilates and elliptical trainers helped to achieve the fashionable flat stomach and elusive thigh gap for women.

What does the future hold?

Social media and technology will play a huge part in working out from anywhere. Influencers and fitness gurus have taken the world by storm using their social media accounts to engage followers with inspirational and creative ways to stay fit. People can choose the type of content they are most interested in and find those that meet their needs and fit into the lifestyle they crave.

During COVID, Joe Wicks, The Body Coach launched a regular morning exercise regime to help people get moving and be well during one of our most forced sedentary times. His workouts were streamed on YouTube, which could be watched from a wide variety of technology. 

Others quickly followed suit during the pandemic, using Instagram live or Facebook live to introduce free workouts to gain new followers and clients. Fitness apps have since been more widely launched, offering pre-recorded workouts streamed through the app or live sessions through the app or Zoom.

Today, circuit training and HIIT are more popular ways of exercising, which can be done at home, in the gym or in the great outdoors.

In the near future, personalised diet plans based on your genetic makeup will take off, with firms offering home microbiome test kits.

What is important, is that our workforce remains fit and healthy. WellGiving supports CSR Managers in designing movement challenges across global teams to inspire and motivate them to move more for their health and wellbeing.