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Four decades of fitness fundamentals

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GoodLife Fitness has come a long way over the years, especially with the group fitness.

By GoodLife Fitness Staff

The year was 1979. The Village People had just released ‘YMCA’ and Gloria Gaynor had a hit with ‘I Will Survive.’ Disco fashions and feathered hair were popular among men and women, and there was more emphasis than ever on physical appearance with the rise of exercise as a hobby.

GoodLife Fitness launched its first club in London, Ontario in 1979 just as fitness was going mainstream in a big way. More people were taking up bodybuilding thanks to the endorsement of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Treadmills moved from the doctor’s office to the gym as a way to incorporate recreational running into daily lives. The stage was set for Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons to get people stepping and kicking to the music.

Maureen ‘Mo’ Hagan, a licensed physiotherapist and vice president of program innovation with GoodLife Fitness, has been dedicated to group fitness since aerobics went mainstream in the early ‘80s. Hagan mastered the most popular aerobics workouts then adapted them with her own style and physio training to create classes for GoodLife Fitness clubs.

“It was the entertainment factor of aerobics that got a lot of us started. Working out with music was new and a great way to make fitness more enjoyable. I took the original aerobics moves and put together new programs that were safer and less likely to cause injuries,” Hagan explained.

Although there have been fads over her nearly 40 years with the company, Hagan says certain types of fitness classes remain popular because they’re effective, entertaining and can be easily delivered by a variety of instructors, who are properly trained to teach group fitness. 

“The best fitness classes give participants what they need, which is cardio, strength and flexibility and what they want, which is great music, fun, challenging moves and an instructor who is knowledgeable and entertaining. With those variables in place, we know the class will be popular long term,” added Hagan.

Here are some of Hagan’s favourite types of group fitness over four decades:

Aerobics: Aerobic exercise has fundamental elements that are still part of many group fitness workouts today – cardio (aerobic) exercise remains a great way to burn calories and improve heart health, the upbeat music and fun instructors make workouts more appealing and ‘express’ timeframe means it’s easier to fit a workout into your busy schedule. 

Dance-inspired fitness – Jazzercise kicked off the dance fitness trend in 1984, combining great music and high tempo dance moves. In the ‘90s, Columbian dance instructor Beto Perez took dance-inspired workouts to a new level by combining Latin dance moves with great music and lots of opportunities for instructors to include their own personal touches. These variables made Zumba a huge hit. Today dance workouts feature the latest club moves and keep people moving to the beat while having fun. 

Martial arts-inspired fitness – Billy Blanks brought martial arts to the forefront with Tae Bo in the 1990s. People loved getting active with action moves from their favourite kung-fu movies. Martial-arts added the entertainment value people crave to take their minds off how hard they’re working. Kickboxing and martial arts remain popular today as a way to build cardio and strength with extra attitude and a positive mindset. 

Spinning – Cyclist Johnny Goldberg was the first to introduce spinning as a form of fitness in 1987. He designed the first spin bike and introduced a class that delivered extreme cardio in a fun, high energy environment. Spinning has since been adapted to focus more on overall conditioning high-intensity interval training. It still relies on high energy music and a lot of personality from its instructors to deliver the fun factor. 

Yoga & Pilates – While yoga has been around forever, it only hit the mainstream in recent years as Baby Boomers looked for an effective workout that would tone and strengthen while minimizing injury. Both yoga and Pilates are now extremely popular with Boomers and Millennials alike who are looking to build strength, flexibility, and stamina while enjoying mindfulness and stress release.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of GoodLife Fitness. With over 405 clubs, GoodLife is now Canada’s largest fitness company, fourth largest in the world and largest owned by a single owner. GoodLife offers the largest range of fitness classes in the country and is the only source of the world-renowned Les Mills fitness programs.

Disclosure: OptiMYz participates in the GoodLife Fitness rewards program offering a discount to club members. We will occasionally publish content in partnership with GoodLife such as this article.

More Inspiration: If you’re thinking of buying a smartwatch or fitness tracker but aren’t sure about the differences, read this article.


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