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Exercise Trends 1920 -v- 2020

According to recent studies, around 61% of adults in the UK in 2022 are physically active, meaning that they complete around 150 minutes of medium intensity exercise every week. Unfortunately, this still leaves around 20 million other adults in the UK who are not doing enough exercise to stay healthy and fit.

Research shows that people living in the 1920’s were around five times more active than we are today. Professor ADRIAN BAUMAN (Public Health and Epidemiology, University of Sydney) states: “Humans have engineered regular daily physical activity out of our lives. We come to work in almost any job and we sit down. We sit for 8 hours and then we get up, walk a short distance and then sit in our car and drive home where we sit in front of the television. We have frozen TV dinners, we have pre-prepared, prepackaged food that doesn't require energy to collect it. We don't hunt or cook it. It's mostly just put in microwaves or oven and eaten.”


When you consider that we now have access to the most effective technologically advanced fitness equipment in most high street gyms, the very best in technical clothing and smart devices to help us stay on track, why are we now ‘less’ active than we were 100 years ago when the availability of visiting a gym back then was a luxury restricted to the wealthy only?


1920 Fitness

You could be forgiven for thinking that health & fitness is a modern concern. I’m sure we have all heard our parents and grand parents talking about how they used to be more active in their daily lives and eat much healthier than we do now?


You would then possibly be surprised to hear that even back in the 1920’s, exercise bikes had been around for quite some time (there were even some on the Titanic!)


They might not be quite as fancy as the ones we are all familiar with now, but the process is the same. The big difference here though is the fact that the lady photographed has chosen to exercise wearing her normal clothes! Brilliant 😀



Resistance training is a really important part of fat burning, weight loss and general fitness. The NHS recommend completing 2 strength workouts every week, alongside 150 minutes of medium intensity cardiovascular exercise.

Strength and conditioning exercises can take many forms. Back in the 1920’s, ladies were encouraged not to sweat in public which led to an increase in home workout equipment being purchased.


There is nothing hi-tech about 1920s workout clothing either. With the invention of Lycra being still decades away (Lycra is a brand name of Spandex, invented in 1959), there was no stretch gymwear to rely on.


Exercise clothing of the era was either a cotton singlet with shorts. Cotton of course is one of the worst materials you can wear against your body when exercising if you’re trying not to sweat!


Notice how the lady pictured here doing leg extensions is wearing heels!


The arrival of Gyms


Surprisingly, gymnasiums have been around since at least 1799, when Franz Nachtegall of Denmark established what is believed to be the world’s first private gymnastics club. It is believed that Nachtegall’s private gym offered large-scale group classes using calisthenics, vaulting, wooden dumbbells and weighted medicine balls - sound familiar….? 😀


The YMCA and YWCA gymnasiums in the 1920’s also featured gymnastic-type exercises promoting grace of movement. These gyms also included exercise classes in the same way that high street gyms do today.

One very popular class involved the use of “Indian Clubs” where participants would perform a series of gracefully flowing moves with an Indian Club in each hand.


It was claimed that Indian Club training provided an aesthetically pleasing way to build grace, flexibility and overall strength.


This is still a popular exercise class today and promotes an increased range of movements when used properly.


2023 Fitness

Modern gym equipment is incredible and some of the most basic level, smart home gym equipment will connect to the internet, include a screen on which you can stream workouts or include an App that lets you view classes on your phone or TV.


Smart fitness devices allow for a whole new level of interactivity offering large libraries of guided classes with knowledgeable instructors, in addition to customised workouts and programs based on your goals and current fitness level.


However, since the first lockdown ended in June 2020, the most popular exercise used in the UK to stay active is……. walking!


Apparently there are now more than 6 million people walking regularly every month in the UK than there was in 2015. Walking is a brilliant way to stay active and if you walk every other day for around 20–30 minutes alternating your pace between a brisk walk and fast enough to get you out of breath it can have some amazing benefits.

Another fitness trend which has seen a steady increase since lockdown is outdoor group fitness - the type of classes we deliver at Get Fit Today.

We are social beings after all and lockdown has highlighted the importance of community and human connection.

The addition of exercising outdoors in a group also brings with it a lot of mental health benefits too

Outdoor group fitness classes have been proven to increase the level of endorphins in your brain which have mood-lifting properties. It also increases energy levels & improves your sleep.

Joining a group will provide a social support network which will reduce loneliness and form long lasting fitness friendships. At Get Fit Today, we focus on ‘helping inactive people become more active’ in an enjoyable and friendly group setting. We offer 6 sessions every week in Abington park and St. Cripsins - to find out more and view our website, click here










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