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  • Writer's pictureCRAIG BRYAN

Female Pioneers of Fitness Paved the Way



 

March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., a great time to remember that fitness, as we know it, didn’t always exist.

 

For earlier generations, gyms weren’t common, very few people lifted weights, and hardly anyone exercised for health or fun. Women, especially, were discouraged from exercising.

 

It wasn’t just men like Jack LaLanne and Arnold Schwarzenegger who brought fitness to the masses. Whether you’re male or female, here are five women often overlooked in the development of today’s fitness industry.

 

1.      Bonnie Prudden. The fitness pioneer, rock climber and mountaineer compared American children to Europeans and found them lacking in activity. Her report to President Dwight Eisenhower led him to from the President’s Council on Youth Fitness.

2.      Lotte Berk. The German-born dancer developed a method of exercise that drew on ballet basics and the idea of “core” stability. Forms of her teaching are offered in today’s barre classes.

3.      Katherine Switzer. She became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an official competitor in 1967. As she was running, a race manager tried to grab her bib number so she’d be disqualified. She finished.

4.      Judi Sheppard Missett created Jazzercise in 1969, eventually helping to launch the aerobics craze that brought millions of women (and men) into fitness studios.

5.      Elaine LaLanne. Jack’s widow is known as “the first lady of fitness” and was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2017. As of October 2023, she was still exercising daily at age 97.

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