Fitness trends can be a lot more trendy than actually helping with fitness. Join us as we wander through just a few of the crazes in this weird world.
The Nautilus Workout
Youngsters may have never heard of Nautilus machines. They exploded in popularity in the late 1970s, and Nautilus gyms were franchised all over the U.S., making inventor-founder Arthur Jones so rich he cracked the Forbes top 400 list. His machines featured kidney-shaped cogs, not pulleys, allowing varying resistance for a better burn. Jones preached that all you needed to do was one set of an exercise, performed to muscular failure, once a week, and you’d get ripped. A high-intensity workout pioneer? Definitely. Creator of the ultimate fitness approach? Nope. If Jones had done that, there’d be more Nautilus gyms today than Starbucks.
Ever seen a young Richard Gere doing dumbbell exercises while hanging upside-down in the 1980 movie American Gigolo? His character is wearing gravity boots — ankle cuffs hooked to a chin-up bar. Proponents said they shredded your abs, juiced your weight workouts, and healed your back. Some claimed “inversion therapy” improved brain function, relieved heart stress, oxygenated organs, and even reduced wrinkles. Gravity boots do stretch the spine, which has helped some people’s back issues, while exacerbating the back problems of others. And inversion increases your blood pressure — not good. As fitness trends go, tread carefully.
In 2009, Christopher McDougall published Born to Run, a best-seller documenting how Mexican Tarahumara tribal people could run for hours wearing only thin sandals, landing lightly on the balls of their feet, rather than heel-striking. McDougall’s book offered a critique of modern running shoes, which he felt promoted an inefficient, injury-creating gait. Suddenly people were scrapping their Nikes and running barefoot — even down dogshit-smeared city sidewalks. “Minimalist” footwear — basically gloves for your feet — appeared. But then science got on the case, and researchers discovered heel-strike running was actually more efficient.