New Ideas for Home Fitness

Updated: Feb. 08, 2017

Let’s just admit it. Back in the 80s and 90s, we were all suckers for “aerobics” à la Jane Fonda.

Let’s just admit it. Back in the 80s and 90s, we were all suckers for “aerobics” à la Jane Fonda. We jumped and kicked and sweated to the music. High-impact, high-intensity workouts were the order of the day. And let’s face it, when they didn’t hurt, they worked. Fortunately, with age comes wisdom. Exercise scientists now know you can burn fat and get fit, without getting hurt. We’re pleased to offer modern exercise alternatives to our forgotten favorites, courtesy of Chris Freytag, creator of the 10 Pound Slimdown workouts on Exercise TV. Break out the legwarmers (or not), and get ready to feel the burn.

If you liked… Jane Fonda Workout
High and low impact aerobics mixed with strength training and floor work (leg lifts galore!) were all part of Jane’s MO, and were pretty revolutionary for their day. But the impact…oh, the impact.

Try this: Jane Fonda Prime Time: Fit & Strong
Jane has dispensed with the leaping like a cheerleader and rolling around on the floor. Instead, she offers a 25 minute total body-toning routine that includes hand weights and strength-training moves like biceps and hamstring curls, as well as a decent core workout. You can make it easier or harder by using heavier or lighter weights.

If you liked…Tae Bo
With its mix of boxing punches and martial arts kicks, Tae Bo became an overnight sensation in the 1990s. Seven-time world martial arts champion and workout creator, Billy Blanks dubbed it energizing, explosive, powerful, and uplifting. “It was very high impact,” notes Freytag. “Too much for some people.”

Try this: Cardio kickboxing
“There’s a reason this hard-hitting, but low-impact class still packs them in,” says Freytag. “It’s not about kicking high or forcefully. It’s about engaging your hamstrings and glutes, and kicking at a comfortable level with good form.” Like Tae Bo, it burns hundreds of calories an hour, and firms those trouble spots on your hips and thighs.

If you liked…Step aerobics
Step aerobics is still on the roster at many clubs across the country, but these days all those T-steps, L-steps, and over-the-tops may be a little more up-and-down choreography than you’re looking for.

Try this: Leslie Sansone’s Walking Workouts
“She is a sensation,” says Freytag of Sansone’s very popular indoor walking workouts (find them at “You do the same traveling moves and knee lifts and kicks, but it’s all on the floor and super easy to follow.”

If you liked…Jazzercise
Founded in 1969 by Judi Sheppard Missett, Jazzercise took on a life of its own in the 80s, with big-haired women sporting their Jazzercise tote bags and jazzer shoes. These 60-minute classes are still around, offering a fun and effective total body workout featuring a fusion of jazz dance with other exercise movements set to popular music.

Try this: Zumba Fitness
If you like “it” fitness dance classes, you’ve gotta try a Zumba class. “It’s everywhere right now,” says Freytag, of this Latin-flavored dance class sensation that is now being taught at over 90,000 locations worldwide. Like Jazzercise, classes feature catchy dance sequences as well as resistance training to tone, sculpt, and burn fat.

If you liked…Gilad’s Bodies in Motion
Filmed on location in the Hawaiian islands, Gilad’s Body in Motion was an ESPN staple from 1985 to 1996 — a remarkable 11-year run. During his career, which incidentally is still going strong on FitTV, Gilad did everything from boot camp style workouts to his bread-and-butter low-impact, sculpt and tone aerobics.

Try this: FitTV or Exercise TV
FitTV is a new channel offered by Discovery (it’s also available via satellite at DirectTV). Gilad is still there, going strong, as are a few other favorites like yoga guru Sara Ivanhoe. Another great option is Exercise TV (at, where you’ll find a variety of free downloadable workouts of all kinds, including Slimdown Cardio Burn and Calorie Burn: Dancer Abs. Other workouts are available for about $3 a workout. For $10 a month, you get instant access to everything on the site.

If you liked…Running
Wasn’t everyone into running in the 70s? You slipped on your Nike Wafflemakers and hoofed it down the block for as long as your knees and hips would let you. Some lithe souls still do. Others have come to the conclusion that they might not be built to be antelopes.

Try this: Walk-jogging
Running is still a great workout. But exercise scientists now know that you can burn nearly as many calories and spare yourself much of the non-stop pounding and impact by walk-jogging — running’s kinder, gentler little sister. “The idea is that you walk briskly for a few minutes, jog for 1 to 2 minutes, then walk again,” says Freytag. “You still get the benefits of raising your heart rate into that higher zone, without the aches and pains.”

If you liked…Home exercise machines
Time was when everyone had a stepper, Nordic track, Bowflex, or other space-hogging workout contraption plopped in the corner of their living room, study, or family room. And let’s face it, though they worked when you used them, the novelty wore off quickly, and they usually ended up as expensive coat racks.

Try this: Wii Sports
Wii broke new ground in the video game world by introducing a human movement-based controller that lets you mimic sports like golf, tennis, even boxing in your living room. An American Council on Exercise study found that when you actually put your whole body into it, it works. Wii baseball burned 4.5 calories a minute; tennis racked up 5.3 calories a minute, and boxing scorched 7.2 calories a minute — all respectable for a living room workout. Just don’t cheat (which is easy to do by flicking your wrist rather than moving your whole body). Another option is Wii Fit, which offers baseline testing, as well as fun, activity-based workouts like Free Run, Free Step and Super Hula Hoop, which burned about 5.5 calories a minute.

If you liked…Belly dancing
For a brief while, we all fancied ourselves hip-swiveling goddesses who could shimmy and shake their way to a skinny waist. It was fun while it lasted, and who doesn’t like playing dress up. But catching a glimpse of your shimmying self in the mirror was often a bit too much of a reality check.

Try this: Sports Hoops
Hula-hooping has been making a comeback in a slightly more serious fashion in the form of sport hoops or heavy hoops (find examples at These weighted hoops are actually easier to keep in motion and engage your abs and obliques for belly-flattening action, while burning about 110 calories in 10 minutes — as much as running a mile. “They’re very fun and they really work,” says Freytag.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest