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The return of ’80s aerobics proves girls still just wanna have fun working out


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Photo: Instagram/@obe_ourbodyelectric

Remember Jazzercise? That oh-so-’80s signature style of aerobics—think high-cut leotards, neon, peppy instructors, and all those grapevines. Well, thanks to a new wave of workout studios embracing the “let’s get physical” ethos, cool kids are once again sweating to the oldies.

And just like in those taped group classes with Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons you might have popped in yourself or seen your mom watching back in the day, the upbeat vibe of current offerings is equally effervescent.

“People are concerned about the future, politically, and whenever that happens, they seem to want to embrace ‘the glitter.'”—Shannon Dooley, founder of Retrosweat

It’s hard to argue with the joy inherent in retro aerobic workouts. Shannon Dooley, founder of Australia-based studio Retrosweat, believes it’s a big part of why ’80s-style sweat seshes are starting to come back. “People are concerned about the future, politically, and whenever that happens they seem to want to embrace ‘the glitter’ and find those things that make them feel like everything is going to be okay,” she says.

Mark Frank, founder of We Are Synthetics, an ’80s-themed studio about to launch in the UK, has a similar outlook. “[It] harkens back to a carefree era,” he says. “The music was uplifting and feel-good, the fashions were colorful, playful, and vibrant. By contrast, he says, “the fitness world has become somewhat intimidating—workout practices such as Olympic lifting, intensive spin classes, and exhaustive HIIT bootcamps have taken fitness back to its military roots. Many [people] are looking for a more balanced approach to exercise, searching for workouts that are not only effective, but also enjoyable too.”

It’s this upbeat energy that inspired Obé founders Ashley Mills and Mark Mullett, albeit subconsciously, when they began branding their fitness streaming platform. Both grew up in the ’80s, and remember their mothers Jazzercizing and aerobicizing. “It felt like a party, but they were sweating and having a good time,” says Mills.

“I have women in their sixties who come to me and say ‘Thank god you’re back.'”—Ashley Mills, co-founder of Obé

Mullett says their platform’s aesthetics appeal to members born in the ’80s, which brings another level of positivity to their practice. “They’re like, ‘Wait, I’ve been here before—this feels good, this feels nostalgic,'” he says. And Dooley adds that the flashback sensation works for subscribers who embraced the fitness trend the first time around. “I have women in their sixties who come to me and say ‘Thank god you’re back’,” she says. “I know that what they mean is ‘Thank god ’80s aerobics are back.'”

But the state of the world and nostalgia aren’t the only reasons exercise junkies are returning to the trend. What made aerobics so popular in the first place remains true today: Anyone can do it. “A really good freestyle aerobics instructor will be able to challenge everyone in the class, and nobody [regardless of experience level] feels left out,” Dooley explains. (And if you’ve ever tried a CrossFit class—or a traditional dance class, for that matter—you know this is not always the case.)

What made aerobics so popular in the first place remains true today: Anyone can do it.

Workout warriors who love a rigorous sweat may find that more readily in today’s popular boutique classes, but that doesn’t mean ’80s aerobic workouts are any less effective, says Frank. “General aerobics is great for burning calories and improving your posture, core stability, and coordination, while strengthening your heart,” he says.

And once you start, it’s hard to stop—just ask the devotees at Banana Skirt Productions‘ Beyoncercise and Rihannacise (yep, you read that right) dance cardio classes in New York City. “Aerobics has an addictive quality to it because you release serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine,” says Dooley. Combine that with the feel-good factor, adds Frank, and “you’re on to a winner.”

Ready to jump on this bandwagon? Look no further than the latest Glow trailer for inspo and don’t forget: scrunchies are mandatory.

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