The Times, They Are A-Changin’

Exercise vintage ad

If you’ve ever been to a gym, or seen one in a movie or on TV, you’ve seen an Exercycle. Basically, it’s a static exercise bike for those who want the health benefits of riding a bike but want the ease and convenience of doing it indoors. But did you know how the Exercycle came to be?

According to the article “The Rise of Exertainment” in the February 3rd edition of Ad Week Magazine:

In 1932, Mrs. Gordon Bergfor of New York City learned from her doctor that she had a chronic neuromuscular disease. The only hope she had was finding an exercise machine that worked every major muscle group simultaneously. Unfortunately, no such machine existed at the time. Fortunately, Mr. Bergfor was a mechanical engineer and built his wife one himself. When neighbors and friends noticed the relief the device brought to Mrs. Bergfor, they asked for one too – and the Exercycle hit the market. Tens of thousands sold. Within a few years, loyal users would come to include John Wayne and President Eisenhower.

Besides winning husband of the year awards, Mr. Bergfor helped kickstart the fitness revolution that has reached a fever pitch today.

What is really interesting, however, is when the article examines one of the original advertisements for the Exercycle and a modern-day advertisement for a similar piece of equipment.

Exercise old


The article discusses how, because exercising was a new trend in the 1960s, the ad featured an endorsement from an actual doctor as well as a 387-word essay spouting the benefits of exercise and how the bike can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy heart, because no one really knew the importance of exercising regularly back then.

Looking at an advertisement from a current magazine, you can see how much the times have changed:

Exercise new


Notice how there are hardly any words, yet they make a point to show the technological features of the machine, as well as the fact that it was designed by New York’s Museum of Modern Art artist Antonio Citterio. No doctor’s endorsement. No essay on the importance of exercising.

That’s because, according to the article, no one needs to be convinced anymore that exercising is important. They now need to be convinced that it is worth their time. People might think they are too busy for a thirty minute workout, but if you can Tweet and access your email directly from the device, then it all of a sudden becomes something more palatable.

It’s very interesting to see how in just a few decades things can change within an industry. What ads are we creating and looking at now that won’t need as much explanation in the future? How will exercise equipment ads look thirty years from now?

Only time will tell.


Posted in Blog.