The ’80s Fitness Craze and What Its Stars Look Like Today

By Robin Mei - March 22, 2019

Olivia Newton-John in the '80s

Were you one of the people who got physical with Olivia Newton-John? The video for “Let’s Get Physical,” featuring Newton-John getting her groove on while dressed in tights and legwarmers was everywhere on MTV.

On top of that, she played Sandy in the film adaptation of the musical Grease, where she went from sneakers to stilettos in 75 minutes. Success is always welcome, but adversity was also awaiting Olivia down the road.

Source: Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John Today

Olivia Newton-John has had a tough go of things since her time in the ’80s spotlight. She has fought breast cancer three times (in 1992, 2013 and 2017), and the four-time Grammy winner has had to quell recent online rumors that she had passed away.

But don’t worry — she’s doing okay! She is considered by her friends and colleagues to be on the most positive people you ever meet, much like the next person on our list.

Source: What Do Your Favorite ’80s Fitness Stars Look Like Now?

Jane Fonda in the '80s

Jane Fonda started getting some serious attention in Hollywood when she landed the starring role in 1968’s Barbarella, where she spent the film’s opening credit’s twirling around mid-air half-naked.

During the 1980s, Fonda jumped headfirst into the fitness craze with her Jane Fonda Workout series, a prime reason why many consumers decided to take the plunge and buy themselves a VCR. When it was all said and done, Fonda released 22 videos straight through into the ’90s, but don’t forget that’s not all she’s known for.

Jane Fonda Today

Jane Fonda set aside her lycra-sporting workout focus in the mid-90s and shifted her focus back to acting and social advocacy. She wrote her biography in 2005 and over the past decade she has appeared in 10 films, including her critically acclaimed turn in 2015’s “Youth.”

But Fonda hasn’t forgotten about the world of fitness. At the age of 70, she began releasing a new series of workout videos geared for the senior lifestyle, someone the next fitness-forward individual is handling with style.


Cher in the '80s

Cher didn’t need her old pal Sonny to help her catapult to fame in the 1980s. She was everywhere there was any form of media to be found. She was singing, dancing, acting and… sweating. In a very crowded workout field, her name became synonymous with the ’80s fitness craze.

Along with her headbands and legwarmers, Cher was also recognized for her lbest-selling book Forever Fit: The Lifetime Plan for Health, Fitness and Beauty, which hit the shelves in 1991.

Cher Today

Today, if there’s any major celebrity gala or music event happening, chances are you’ll find Cher in all of her fashion-forward beauty there. For those functions she can’t personally attend, you can still see her inspirational influence in the crowd. This woman has staying power, plain and simple.

Now in her 70s, Cher can not only talk the talk but she can still (literally) walk the walk when it comes to keeping fit. But who comes out on top if she’s next to a superhero?

Lou Ferrigno in the '80s

Lou Ferrigno spent the late ’70s and early ’80s on everyone’s TV as the great big green half of the Incredible Hulk equation. During its five seasons on the air, Ferrigno had to spend four hours every day getting greened up for the role.

Facing his share of adversity as a child, Ferrigno used fitness training and bodybuilding as an escape. He’d go on to win the IFBB Mr. America title, and with that, his flexing career took off. How incredible is he?


Lou Ferrigno Today

You’d be forgiven for thinking that The Incredible Hulk would be Ferrigno’s one and only opportunity to claim the spotlight, but he used the same work ethic he relied on to get in shape to help keep himself busy and active.

He’s had stints in television’s “The King of Queens” and “I Love You, Man” on the big screen. He’s also been working with government agencies to keep Americans fit, not to mention putting on a badge while working as a police deputy in both Ohio and California.

Raquel Welch in the '80s

The world was introduced to Raquel Welch and her stunning beauty back in the 1960s when she graced the big screen in the sci-fi classic, “Fantastic Voyage.” Welch was always a scene stealer on and off the screen, a power she knew exactly what to do with.

Welch catapulted herself to the ’80s fitness craze with her book, “Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program.” It helped keep Welch in the public eye for the entire decade and more, as you’ll find out.

Raquel Welch Today

Jumping ahead to Raquel Welch today and you’ll still see the actress appearing in films. She decided after the success of her book that she would focus on her acting career, although exercise and healthy living have always been close to her heart.

From her stint as Lana in “One Million Years B.C.” to her role in the “Legally Blonde,” Welch has proven time and again why so many people around the world, and not just Hollywood, consider her an icon, much like this next fitness guru.

Richard Simmons in the '80s

In many ways, Richard Simmons was the ’80s for many people. He had a personality so over the top there’s no other haircut he could have other than the pseudo-perm ‘fro he always sported. He gained attention by telling the world about his own weight-gain issues, then won everyone over with how he got himself fit as a fiddle.

Simmon’s “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” workout series combined retro musical memories with ’80’s style and exuberance. The amazing thing is, he’s still doing it today.

Richard Simmons Today

Even now, there’s no way you’d be able to walk down the street and not spot Richard Simmons in a crowd. He still has the crazy hair, even if it has gone grey (c’mon, he’s over 70 years old), and his outfits are as outrageous now as they were thirty years ago.

Simmons now runs his own gym in Los Angeles, continues to make appearances on television shows and commercials and has authored several books. He’ll be sweatin’ to the oldies for years to come, guaranteed.

Jamie Lee Curtis in the '80s

Making it big in Hollywood in the ’80s wasn’t a guarantee if all it took was putting on a pair of leg warmers. Just ask Jamie Lee Curtis, although she would probably be the first one to tell you it definitely helped her career and the major boost it got when she showed off her toned physique in 1985’s “Perfect.”

Alongside a short-shorts-wearing John Travolta, Curtis was soon on magazine covers across the country showing off the results of her hard work in the gym.


Jamie Lee Curtis Today

Following the success of “Perfect” and her new status as a Hollywood sex symbol, Curtis continues to work in the film industry.

With credits in the “Halloween” franchise and “Trading Places” already under her belt, she would go on to star in “A Fish Called Wanda” and “True Lies,” featuring another fabled fitness player, Arnold Schwarzenegger. With being as busy as she is, it’s a good thing someone developed a shorter exercise plan like the one we have coming up next!

Bess Motta in the '80s

It only lasted one season in 1983, but for many people in the 1980s “The 20 Minute Workout” was the best one-third of an hour they spent all day. And much of that thanks could be directed towards one of the show’s stars, actress and singer Bess Motta.

With a foot already in the onstage theatre door as a teenager, Motta would go on to make an appearance as Sarah Connor’s roommate in “The Terminator.” But did being ‘terminated’ onscreen mean bad things for offscreen life?.

Bess Motta Today

For a show that didn’t last long, “The 20 Minute Workout” is still the one thing most people remember Motta for, even if they don’t always know her name. She did make other movie and television appearances besides “The Terminator,” however.

In 2016, Motta was back onstage as Judy Garland in The Boy From Oz. The role garnered her an award for Best Featured Performance from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle after its 77-show run. Geez, you need buns of steel to be a dancer.

Greg Smithey in the '80s

If you were living large in the 1980s, you were expected to have one physical asset that put you ahead of everyone else: Buns of steel. You can thank aerobics instructor Greg Smithey and his successful series of workout videos for that.

His “Original Buns of Steel” video sold over one million copies (on VHS, of course), and shifted America’s fitness focus from the upper body to the lower body in order to make your tush the center of attention. Steel fades, but did Smithey?

Greg Smithey Today

So what has Greg Smithey been up to since his Buns of Steel concept took over the world? Not much, at least as far as spending time i public goes. After the Buns of Steel heyday, Smithey never released another video.

His Original Buns of Steel website is still up, but you won’t find a photo of Greg there from the ’90s onwards. The site’s testimonials namedrop Jay Leno and the Cathy cartoon series, so it is a little dated. Buns of steel, though? Always in style.

Susan Powter in the '80s

Did you ever “Stop the insanity!” back in the day? Fitness icon Susan Powter sure did during the 1980s, and it was her that launched that unforgettable catchphrase into the urban lexicon.

Powter started off her healthcare career as a nutritionist in her 20s after she moved to America from Australia at the age of 10. That would lead to expanding roles as a personal trainer, author and motivational speaker, all culminating in her now-famous plea to the health-conscious masses.

Susan Powter Today

Powter is still a force on the fitness circuit, although she does have a few more tattoos now compared to ’80s. The platinum hair is still there, and she has continued to put an emphasis on motivating people to stay fit and eat right.

Today she is a strong proponent of organically grown foods. Through her website, she offers online sessions for people wanting to not only get healthy, but stay healthy. As healthy as this next ’80s fitness star? You decide.


Jake Steinfeld in the '80s

He was the guy everyone in Hollywood who wanted to get in shape had on speed dial. He also dabbled in acting (Coming to America), but Jake Steinfeld will always be known for his ability to convince people that getting your sweat on is the right thing to do.

Steinfeld’s Body By Jake exercise regiment and infomercials were everywhere back in the ’80s. Using his own slightly over-the-top physique as his primary selling point, he motivated millions to get in shape. Is the body still there, though?

Jake Steinfeld Today

Steinfeld has continued to be a successful fitness advocate and businessman since his ’80s heyday. Now reaching retirement age (he was born in 1958 after all) he’s still the CEO of Jake Global and continues to do the motivational speaking circuit.

A quick search on Amazon and you’ll also see that Jake’s name is on just about any fitness-related product you can think of. He’s even got workout playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. Speaking of music, this next star will get you moving.

John Travolta in the '80s

“Welcome Back, Kotter.” “Saturday Night Fever.” “Grease.” It was impossible to miss John Travolta in the 1970s, and in the ’80s he ripped off his white disco suit to reveal that he was kinda in shape. Okay, let’s be honest — he was really in shape

Travolta proved that with his role in “Perfect,” where he and Jamie Lee Curtis both got to show off all the hard work they put into buffing up. They both had the uber-sweats to prove it.

John Travolta Today

John Travolta has been a near-constant presence in Hollywood from the time his career started. He might not have always kept his “Perfect” physique in place, but he has somehow managed to have hair that somehow refuses to age despite the fact he’s now officially old enough to retire.

Travolta will always be a fan favorite, and has the Oscar and Golden Globe nominations to prove it. His dance with Uma Thurman in 1994’s Pulp Fiction? Unforgettable.

Heather Locklear in the '80s

Name a magazine from the 1980s and chances are good that at some point television star Heather Locklear appeared on the cover at least once. This TJ Hooker ‘it’ girl was on everyone’s mind back then, and judging by the number of paparazzi tailing her the public demanded more.

Locklear looked fit because she lived fit, and she shared that with the masses in her “Personal Training Sessions” video. What has happened to Heather in the meantime is going to surprise you.

Heather Locklear Today

Heather Locklear today is still one of Hollywood’s natural beauties, and on the acting front she’s had stints on “Melrose Place,” and “Ally McBeal.”

Unfortunately, Locklear has had issues with drug and alcohol abuse, something that has thrown her back into the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons. Ex-husband Ritchie Sambora (Bon Jovi) has returned to help Heather get treatment, and both he and their daughter Ava are offering all the support they can.

Source: Heather Locklear’s Ex-Husband Richie Sambora Says He’ll ‘Always Be There’ for Her & Daughter Ava

Arnold Schwarzenegger in the '80s

There is absolutely no way that any feature story on ’80s fitness icons could not include the original Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is a man who was cast in his early roles based on his staggering physique alone, thanks in part to his being crowned Mr. Olympia at 19.

Yes, Arnie had the body, but he also had the brains. Throughout the ’80s he wrote lifestyle stories in Muscle & Fitness and Flex. Not surprising, his career has some muscle behind it.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Today

Jumping ahead thirty years to today’s Schwarzenegger and you’ll see this guy is still going strong (pun intended). His acting career took off in the ’80s and carried him straight through the next two decades (Total Recall and the Terminator franchise, anyone?), and somehow he managed to conquer the world of politics when he served as California’s governor for eight years.

Arnie is still a workout machine, a feat that only adds to his ongoing fitness legacy. And no one takes cheap shots at him, unlike our next formewr fitness star.

Tony Little in the '80s

Fitness fanatic Tony Little’s physical appearance probably gained more attention than his workout methods ever did, but that’s the risk you had to take when you were sculpted like an Adonis, had an almost too-white smile and hair that made both sexes swoon.

“America’s Personal Trainer” was a staple on television sets for years, and his fitness infomercials were impossible to miss. His work in the gym made him millions during Little’s ’80s heyday. He wasn’t all of America’s fave trainer as time went on, though.

Tony Little Today

When the 1990s took over, Tony Little and his 1980’s California perma-tan started to fade from the fitness spotlight. It’s not that he didn’t do well from his time on television — he’s estimated to be worth $4 million.

The problem Little always faced is similar to another ’80s icon, Rodney Dangerfield — he just couldn’t get no respect. Little has had the last laugh and continues working as a personal trainer to Hollywood’s elite. So, how did our next ’80s fitness star keep their muscles flexed?


Judi Sheppard Missett in the '80s

If you lived through the ’80s and have never heard of Jazzercise, we’re sorry, but there must be something wrong with you. The woman at the front of the Jazzercise craze, Judi Sheppard Missett, was also this workout regiment’s poster girl.

If you wanted to spend some time getting fit while you had music blaring around you, Missett and her dance workout were exactly what the doctor ordered. It’s amazing to see how being a fitness fanatic changed her life in the future.

Judi Sheppard Missett Today

The name may sound slightly dated, but today Jazzercise is still a thing. Gyms across the globe still offer classes featuring it, and as a result Missett has firmly cemented herself as a continuing leader in the fitness industry.

She also looks like someone who has spent a lot of time taking care of herself, something she still attributes to the craze that she helped create. She didn’t quite build the fitness empire our next star did, but then again, who could?

Kathy Smith in the '80s

Kathy Smith was one woman that the world always looked to when it needed to pick up its socks and get motivated to not only get in shape, but actually stay in shape. Hers is a name that just won’t go away, and for good reason. She used the ’80s to change how people approached exercising.

Selling 16 million workout videos certainly helped cement that, but what’s also impressive is what she did to keep the momentum going for her.

Kathy Smith Today

Today’s Kathy Smith is worth an astounding $500 million. Much of that success can be attributed to her mastery of the online world, but her name can also be found on books, including “Project: You! Type 2” on diabetes management, a clothing line and of course, more videos.

She has websites touting her methods, blogs providing motivational tips and now a podcast that allows her a new forum to preach her message of healthy living, something another of her colleagues has been a big fan of doing.

Suzanne Somers in the '80s

Suzanne Somers was already a face and name that everyone in America recognized thanks to her brief stint on the hit comedy “Three’s Company,” but that was just a stepping stone for what was waiting for the crazy-in-shape blonde bombshell: Supreme dominance in the world of “80s fitness.

Somers would go on to become the spokesperson for ThighMaster (not to mention ButtMaster) and Shake Weight. She had the leotards, and the constant cleavage, to keep people’s attention. Does she still have ‘it’?

Suzanne Somers Today

Suzanne Somers has always been a true go-getter, and her hard work through the 1980s has successfully carried her through to today. In addition to her backing of several exercise regiments, she’s also been the face of ShamWow and Miss Cleo’s Psychic Friends Network.

That’s not all. Somers is a successful businesswoman, has written a book of poetry to go along with her offerings on topics such as lifestyle changes for better living and even cancer treatments.

Billy Blanks in the '80s

The world can thank workout guru Billy Blanks for coining the phrase Tae Bo and the workout regiment he formulated behind the clever moniker. A combination of taekwondo and boxing (is the name making more sense now?), Blanks opened a gym in Los Angeles and things started rolling.

His sculpted pecs would go on to attract many celebrity clients, including dancer and singer Paula Abdul. As word got out about his methods, Blanks started to market Tae Bo to the masses. But does anyone care any more?

Billy Blanks Today

Jumping out the ’80s and into the 21st century and you’ll find Billy Blanks is still hard at work, both with his career and keeping himself in shape. YouTube has been a great platform for Blanks to continue offering the public fitness hints, and he’s dipped his toes into the acting world as well.

He now has several credits to his name, including “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Driving Force,” and has been happily married since 2007. But no one deserves as much credit as our last fab fitness icon.

Fabio Lanzoni in the '80s

When you say, “Remember that Lanzoni guy from the ’80s?” you’ll get a blank stare. Name drop “Fabio” and everyone knows exactly who you’re talking about, and this Italian stallion made an immediate impression with his smoldering eyes, chiseled cheekbones and his long blonde locks.

It didn’t take long for this magazine model to get noticed by the fitness-centric publications, and with that came books and his own workout video. If only we knew what Fabio is doing now…

Fabio Lanzoni Today

Well, Fabio is still Fabio — there’s just no stopping the guy. He is still heavily involved in the fitness and healthy living business. He’s still modeling, including ad stints with brands like Versace. People want a piece of Fabio and he’s got the updated resume with a long list of fragrance and clothing retailers to back him up.

Hollywood has also been a focus, and chances are you’ll never forget his turns in “Zoolander” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Even without the tan, he’s beautiful!