Being modern: #76 Fitness fads

Trying to earn enough money to pay for it all is making us completely exhausted

As you jealously eye the many exemplars of physical perfection in this magazine, it is entirely possible that you will glance down at your own body and wonder what you might do to halt the inexorable slip, slide and wobble of the passing years.

But where to begin on that long walk, run, jump and pump to fitness? Let's take a deep breath and start with dynamic tension – the approach championed by Charles Atlas (above) with a set of ads from the 1940s that bellowed "And to think they used to call me skinny!" while telling the story of how Joe, a "97lb weakling", got the girl by standing up to a sand-kicking bully and, in truth, became a bit of a knuckle-head himself.

We could start there. But is being too skinny really the problem these days? Not so much. So let's move on to the Bullworker, an isometric exercise device from the 1960s that shifted more than nine million units now gathering dust in more than nine million attics.

The following decades saw Jim Fixx's The Complete Book of Running (1977, 1 million copies sold; enduring lesson: jogging is good for you) and then Jane Fonda's Workout videos (1982, 17 million copies sold; enduring lesson: exercising to music is fun and leggings look cool). And then the floodgates opened...

So now we have the Push-Up Pro, the iGallop, the Shake Weight and the Sit Fit. There are classes in Spinning, Jazzercise, Boxercise and Zumba. And if none of that takes your fancy, you could always splash out £70 a month for gym membership, before you do the year-end maths and realise that it's cost you £210 per visit because you've only been four times.

And for that sort of money, you figure, you might as well go the full Madonna and get yourself a personal trainer (about £40 per one-hour session, minimum 10 sessions). Are we fit yet? No, but trying to choose between the options and then trying to earn enough money to pay for them is making us hyperventilate and feel completely exhausted.

Which, according to Government guidelines, are two of the required benefits of keeping fit. Job done. See you at the next Olympics.

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