80s Fitness Icons: Where Are They Now?


6 blasts from the past with current status updates

Fitness Flashback!

Let’s get physical! That famous Olivia Newton John song from the 80s wasn’t just a smash pop hit, it was a mantra for an entire generation. The exercise craze of that decade was all about pulling on a leotard and some leg warmers and popping in a VHS tape of your favorite workout routine (Jazzercise, anyone?), led by your favorite fitness icon. But while VCR’s and presumably the videos that go with them have essentially become digital dinosaurs, your favorite fitness fanatics are still alive and kicking (aerobics-style, of course).

So where are they now? We tracked down six blasts from the past and found out what they’re up to today!



Richard Simmons: Then

The New Orleans native known for his outlandish outfits and larger-than-life personality (complete with micro-mini shorts) captured America’s attention in the late 70s by sharing his own personal weight loss journey and sparked an aerobics craze in the 90s with his series of Sweatin’ to the Oldies videos.

Richard Simmons: Now

Simmons continues to teach at his Slimmons Studio in Beverly Hills, Calif., and can currently be spotted in Geico commercials and various other endorsements.


Denise Austin: Then

“America’s Fitness Sweetheart” has embraced a healthy lifestyle and shared her secrets for success since the 80s, but she has never slowed down! Over the years, Austin has sold more than 24 million videos and starred in several fitness-related TV shows, most notably the Jack LaLanne Show in 1981.

Denise Austin: Now

Austin tells SHAPE exclusively “I still have so much fun promoting fitness. It never goes ‘out of style’ or gets old!” This year alone, the 5’4” fitness dynamo releases a new DVD (her 98th!) called Shrink Belly Fat, a new line of branded fitness products for Rite-Aid, as well as a new walking, fitness, and diet program that subscribers to her website DeniseAustin.com can partake in. In January 2013, her 15th book will be published.

Jake Steinfeld: Then

Jake “Body by Jake” Steinfeld is one of the fitness industry’s reigning icons and is said to be responsible for creating the personal fitness training industry more than 30 years ago.



Jake Steinfeld: Now

A street-smart entrepreneur, Steinfeld continues to develop successful products, brands, and businesses as Chairman and CEO of Body by Jake Global®. He is now revolutionizing the training industry for the digital age with the creation of FitOrbit 2.0, an online personal training platform that makes trainer and nutritionists affordable and accessible to everyone.

Jane Fonda: Then

The Jane Fonda Workout was the highest selling home video of the 1980s, selling more than a million copies. The video’s release led many people to buy the then-new VCR in order to watch and perform the workout at home. Fonda subsequently released 23 workout videos, with the series selling a total of 17 million copies combined, more than any other exercise series.

Jane Fonda: Now

After a 15-year hiatus, Fonda released two new fitness videos on DVD in 2010, aiming at an older audience. She still enjoys a career as a successful actress and political activist.


Tony Little: Then

Once dubbed “America’s Personal Trainer,” the ponytailed fitness guru has sold more than $4 billion fitness products via infomercials. Most memorable is the Gazelle elliptical glider.

Tony Little: Now

Recently, Little has partnered with breakthrough fitness beverage Celsius, the first and only negative calorie drink.

Kathy Smith: Then

Smith sold millions of fitness DVD’s on everything from ‘step’ (launching the 1990s craze) to belly dancing, and has authored several bestselling books.


Kathy Smith: Now

She released two new DVD’s last year alone and continues to promote exercise and nutrition as the spokesperson for the International Council on Active Aging.


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