The pioneering women who have changed the fitness world

The pioneering women who have changed the fitness world

01.03.2023 6 minutes

Fitness heroines who have influenced generations

Today, fitness and exercising for women is commonplace, but it wasn’t always so. According to historical sources, a woman with a dumbbell in her hand could still be seen in the 1940s only in a circus. In the 1970s and 1980s, strength training for women was a very controversial topic and was often accompanied by prejudices and misconceptions. Women who worked out with weights and engaged in strength training were often perceived as masculine, trying to gain male muscle mass and lose their femininity. Heroines appeared on the scene who fought against these prejudices and became pioneers of fitness.

These women used exercise as a way to change social norms and to assert themselves in a man’s world. Their courage and ingenuity have paved the way for many women who have begun to realise the benefits of strength training, including health improvements, body fat reduction and muscle gain. The women worked out harder and tougher and showed that they could be as strong as their male counterparts without losing their femininity.


Changes in conditions for women in gyms

Many gyms did not have equipment suitable for women’s workout. These prejudices and non-adapted gym equipment in the past have forced women to exercise in seclusion at home or in groups. This trend has begun to change, as several studies have shown, and the number of women in gyms has begun to increase.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study that found that by 1990, 29% of gym clients were women. In 2016, the figure reached 45%.

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A 2019 study published in the journal BMC Public Health demonstrates how these preconceptions have changed. The study focused on how fitness equipment adapts to the needs of different sexes. Researchers have found that more and more gym equipment is adapting to the needs of women. For example, the number of equipment and exercises intended for lower body exercise is increasing, which is beneficial for women who are trying to improve fitness and strength in this part of the body.

Another problem the women faced was that they could not show their bodies in public. Therefore, they had to wear large and impractical clothes that covered their figures and were more suitable for men. But with the advent of new exercising methods and better materials, new types of clothing suitable for women have also begun to be developed. Fitness leggings have become popular for their comfort and flexibility even in everyday life.


The path to the fitness world without prejudice

There are many women who have done their part to change the way we look at exercising and healthy lifestyle today. Let’s take a look together at some of these amazing heroines and how their influence has changed the way women work out today.


Jack LaLanne

She was one of the first fitness pioneers to advocate the benefits of exercising for health and well-being in the 1950s and 1960s. At a time when bodybuilding was primarily a male pursuit, LaLanne was the first to promote aerobic exercise and her own brand of fitness equipment.


Judi Sheppard Missett

The heroine who founded the Jazzercise dance fitness program in the 1970s. Her program was the first to use dance elements to improve fitness and burn calories. At a time when women were supposed to hide in the shadows of men, Missett dared to show that women can be in good shape and strong too.


Jacki Sorensen

In 1969, she revolutionised aerobics. Her exercise programs were intended for both men and women, but were most popular among the latter who wanted to improve their physique and health. Sorensen also stressed the importance of movement and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.


Jane Fonda

Actress and activist who in 1982 created a fitness video programme called “Jane Fonda’s Workout”, which became a phenomenon and helped to popularise aerobics among women. She began to promote the fitness lifestyle as a way to not only keep in good shape, but also to maintain well-being. Her program was very popular and became a prime example of how fitness can be fun and effective.


Kathy Smith

A personal trainer who was one of the first women to release her exercise videos and books and helps women around the world exercise at home.


Bodybuilding isn’t just for men

Bodybuilding has been lucky enough to be represented by women who have been successful, like Rachel McLish and Cory Everson. But many other women failed because they did not conform to traditional ideas of what women should look like. Bodybuilding is hard. But women have more obstacles to overcome. They have less muscle mass and a higher proportion of body fat. Therefore, they have to work harder in order to gain a higher amount of muscle mass. In addition, women had to fight the prejudices that the society had against them.

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Abbye Stockton

The fairer sex avoided the exercise with heavy weights because they were afraid of looking like men. American Abbye “Podgy” Stockton, considered by many to be the pioneer of women’s bodybuilding, has begun to bust these myths. In addition to spreading the idea of a woman in good shape, she also ran several gyms with her husband.


Cory Everson

Also known as “Miss Olympia”. Former professional bodybuilder and fitness trainer. In the 1980s, she became the first woman to win the IFBB Ms. Olympia in bodybuilding and later she became the record holder of this competition when she won the title of “Miss Olympia” from 1984 to 1989. Her success and courage opened the door for many other women who wanted to overcome stereotypes and practices to achieve their dreams.


Lenda Murray

The six-time winner of the Ms. Olympia proved that women can also be strong and persistent and that bodybuilding is not just for men.


Rachel McLish

The first winner of the Ms. Olympia in the bodyfitness category and an actress who proved that women can have lean and toned muscles and be beautiful and feminine at the same time.


Women’s fitness and fitness leggings without prejudice

Despite the prejudice and criticism these women faced, their courage and consistency paved the way for generations of women after them. Today, we can enjoy fitness and exercise without worrying about how society perceives women. They have forever changed the view of women’s fitness. Thanks to them, fitness is considered part of a healthy lifestyle and is not tied to sex.

It’s important to remember that thanks to these heroines, today’s women can enjoy fitness without prejudice and wear comfortable and fashionable fitness clothing without being judged. Their courage and fight for equality is proof that if you want to change the world you can do it if you are brave enough to follow your heart and passion. Their efforts have shown that women can also be successful and influential in a field that previously belonged exclusively to men. And that the important element is determination, hard work and dedication to your goal. They deserve great thanks and appreciation. They motivate us to set goals and not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in.

Whether you work out at the gym, outdoors or love doing yoga, you can wear your favourite fitness leggings with pride and the knowledge that you’re part of progress and overcoming stereotypes.