By Megan Taylor Morrison
The Active Times
On a sunny Saturday some years ago, my 8-year-old self poured a bowl of cereal, sat down in front of the television and stumbled upon an odd sight while clicking through channels: A man jumping around in a tight, sparkly leotard and yelling at me to do the same.
"Who is this guy?" I asked my mom.
"That's Richard Simmons!" She replied. And I never forgot him.
|The Get Fit Guide For 2013|
The best fitness icons are those that make an impression on us -- they're so fit, flamboyant or enthusiastic that you can't help but tune in...even if it's more for entertainment than a workout. I must have gone through several bowls of cereal before I finally moved onto my regular cartoons.
While this was my experience as a Generation Y, every era has had its eye-catching and sweat-inspiring fitness gurus. This slideshow is our tribute to the fittest and most inspiring celebrities who have done their part to whip the masses into shape.
After both her parents died tragically when she was a teen, Kathy Smith began exercising to fight depression. Smith became well known for her workout videos in the late 1980's and early 90's, and has now sold more than $500 million in lifestyle products and fitness equipment including books, videos and DVDs.
Smith also designed an exercise and nutrition program called Project: You! Type 2 in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association. The program is designed to help type 2 diabetics manage their disease. Kathy is the spokesperson for the International Council on Active Aging and a member of the Founders Circle of the Women's Sports Foundation.
Although Tony Horton first moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting, he soon made a life out of training notable names such as Billy Idol, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and Usher. While working at the World Gym in Venice, California, Horton vegan to develop routines based on speed, flexibility and balance to avoid the bulky bodybuilder look. When he was approached by BeachBody to develop and star in a workout video series, Horton developed Power 90 and later the P90X program that sold more than three million copies.
All Beto Perez wanted was to bring his upbeat dance workouts from Colombia to America, but with poor English and little money, he couldnt convince fitness center managers to watch his promo videos. Although it took four trips, Perez finally landed a break at a gym in Miami in 1999. He worked out with the manager in an otherwise-empty gym but, by the time the class was over, 15 additional people had wandered in to take part.
Thanks to Perez's enthusiasm and an infomercial that sold more than one million DVDs in six months, the Zumba craze began. Today, Zumba is done in 185 different countries, 12 million DVDs have been sold and more than 30,000 people around the world have become Zumba instructors.
Baptiste comes from a line of health, yoga and philosophical educators. His contribution to the world of fitness took the form of a new type of power yoga, one that provided practitioners a way to harness the benefits of yoga without the mysticism or new-age themes. Baptiste became known for his innovative ideas, rigorous programs and skilled leadership in classes. He founded two yoga studios in the Boston area and has inspired more than 40 other studios with his methodology. His talent and initiative was noticed by the NFL, and Baptiste was asked to join the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff. He served on the team for four years as the Peak Performance Specialist.
Today Baron works with troubled communities such as gang members in South Central L.A., low-income families in Washington D.C., and returning veterans. He also founded the non-profit Africa Yoga Project that brings yoga to thousands of impoverished youth in Nairobi via Kenyan teachers trained by Baptiste himself.
When Galloway became an All-American collegiate athlete and member of the 1972 Olympic team, no one knew his career would still be growing more than 40 years later. At 67, Jeff maintains a successful masters running career, is a key organizer of the Peachtree Road Race, owns three vacation fitness camps across North America and two running specialty stores, coaches more than 200,000 runners and walkers, and is a monthly columnist for Runners World. He's also written several books including Galloway's Book on Running.
When asked to design a fitness television program for Air Force wives at the base in Puerto Rico where her husband worked, Jacki Sorenson tapped her fitness experience to create the first course in aerobic dance. When Sorenson and her husband moved back to New Jersey, Sorenson introduced her program at the local YMCA where her classes grew rapidly. Today, Jacki's programs are offered in the United States, Japan and Australia.
Sorenson served for six years as a clinician for the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and is the president and founder of Jacki's, Inc. for which she still choreographs more than 150 routines a year. Her notable recognitions include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Dance Exercise Association, her induction into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and the 2012 Presidents Council Lifetime Achievement Award.
When her husband began work as the 44th President, Michelle Obama set out on a mission of her own. Michelle created the Let's Move! Campaign in 2010 as part of her effort to help fight childhood obesity. The program focuses on healthy eating and physical activity, and has been endorsed by notable kid-friendly celebrities such as Big Bird.
Michelle was responsible for the organic White House Kitchen Garden, the first garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt installed bee hives. She also became honorary chair of the Partnership for a Healthier America and published a book on healthy eating called American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
Michelle herself has worked with the same personal trainer for more than 15 years, helped break a Guinness World Record for the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, and loves to show off with a hula hoop.
For the complete slideshow of the Top Fitness Icons Of All Time, go to TheActiveTimes.com.