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From the Archives: What Wellness Meant in 1977

Only a few decades ago, this magazine encouraged becoming a "new you" largely via exercise
San Diego Union columnist Burl Stiff and fitness instructor Susie Mitzkat get on the scale and “face the figures.”

By Erin Meanley Glenny

In January 1977, a “New You” largely entailed aerobic exercise, a Vidal Sassoon haircut, and a massage at Rancho La Puerta. Writer Roberta Ridgely’s “Remaking Yourself: A Life Changing Handbook for Men and Women” listed dozens of classes, salons, and services.

Her introduction praises group fitness and exercise, warning of “actual danger in exercising alone if you never have learned how to work out and with your body.” She cautions against ignoring “important safeguards such as always stretching to the right and left sides before first performing any backward and forward stretch.”

She presents tap dancing at Bunny’s School of Ballet in La Mesa, Slimnastics at several YMCAs, and a whole category for “Conditioning,” with one class named “For the Total Woman.” There’s water exercise, weight training, gymnastics, posture therapy, and sports.

Mental wellness didn’t get nearly as much real estate in the feature, but there’s a section on yoga that includes classes called “Mind & Body Control” and “Radiance,” with a special session for children’s yoga. Explaining an unfamiliar new practice, she writes, “T’ai chi ch’uan is sometimes called ‘meditation in motion.’” There’s one mention of meditation under the category of “Massage.” It’s a UC San Diego Extension course called “Dynamic Relaxation thru Yoga, Meditation & Massage.” Offered at the Vaughan Aquarium-Museum at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, it included “11 warm-up self-massage techniques plus 21 yoga postures & T’ai-Chi warm-up exercises.”

Under the “Passive Exercise” category is a chain of Gloria Marshall Figure Salons, a “concept of women-only reducing salons [with] Marshalls’ own Circ-L-Matic, a patented vibrating table, plus a gravity exercising machine, originally made for the Astronauts, which exercises 600 muscles at once. Atmosphere is supportive.”

Call us crazy, but we didn’t find much of this feature to be very supportive. Most of the discussion is about weight. There’s no talk of exercising to lower cholesterol or relieve stress, although Ridgely does mention cardiovascular benefits being a “big payoff.” We are so glad that in the current era, we know the biggest impetus to exercise is not to look good but to be healthy. Yes, we still have plastic surgery and self-tanners, but I’d like to think we’ve evolved to a more holistic view of health. For every boot camp, spin, and TRX class, we have sound bowl meditation, reiki, and infinite permutations of yoga classes. We acknowledge and accept that mental well-being is just as important as physical fitness. Want proof? Read our feature on how to be more mindful.

From the Archives: What Wellness Meant in 1977

San Diego Union columnist Burl Stiff and fitness instructor Susie Mitzkat get on the scale and “face the figures.”

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