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How Has Fitness and Nutrition Changed In the Last 50 Years

Updated on January 7, 2012

Fitness and nutrition in the United States have changed tremendously in the past five decades. A majority of individuals are making less healthy food choices for better time management. On the other hand, exercise equipment has utilized science and technology to help people become physically stronger and/or healthier. Whether for good or bad, changes in diet and fitness have morphed the way people live.

Quick and Easy Foods

Fast food has become a staple for many individuals. Though fast food was developed in the 1930s, it has peaked in popularity during the past two decades. According to CBS HealthWatch, at least a quarter of all Americans eat at McDonald's once per day. In the 1960s, it was still common to plant a garden or a fruit tree for food. Nowadays, this is not the case, in fact it is less common to grow a garden in the U.S than it was 50 years ago. Even quick pop in the microwave or oven meals have become more popular, despite the fact that the invention of the TV dinner occurred in 1944. Between working and conflicting schedules, there is not as many home-cooked, healthy meals on the plates of children today.


Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. In 2007 and 2008, 34 percent of Americans were obese and another 34 percent were overweight, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1960 and 1962, only about 14 percent of Americans were obese and 31.5 percent were overweight. Since 1976, the number of obese children from ages 2 to 5 has nearly doubled.

Exercise Equipment

Treadmills were invented in the 1875 as a source of energy to power equipment such as water pumps and butter churns. The 1960s began the start of the treadmill being sold commercially with the design of being a conveyor belt-like device used to walk on. However, in the 2000s, treadmills have features that treadmills of before did not have such as LCD and touch screens, speed adjustment, heart monitors, fans and even internet connection. Fifty years exercise equipment, such as ellipticals were not even thought about. It was not until 1995 that the company Precor USA invented the elliptical fitness machine. It was not until 1981 that the rowing machine was invented for indoor purposes. Prior to these inventions, exercise equipment was more basic.


Diets and diet products have changed significantly over the years. It was not until 1966 when the first diet shake was created in a strawberry flavor. Today, shakes come in a variety of flavors and different nutrients to created numerous choices. More and more diet clinics have opened their doors. For instance, Weight Watcher appeared in 1961, and continues to be a center for nutrition and weight loss. As of March of 2011, weight assist programs have online programs and planned meals. Cutting calories and exercise was the most popular method of weight loss 50 years ago. Some fad diets such as the Mayo Clinic diet--created in the 1930's--were existent, but not the most common option in weight loss. In 2011, people are looking for weight loss at a quick pace with diet pills, diet shakes, surgery and different diets such as the cabbage soup diet. There are more fad diets and methods of weight loss than ever before.


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    • peramore20 profile image

      peramore20 6 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      So true PageC. Despite the innovations and advancements to exercise equipment, we tend to steer toward the unhealthy food advancements.

    • peramore20 profile image

      peramore20 6 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      Thank you Megan.

    • PageC profile image

      PageC 6 years ago

      Interesting -- and we keep getting heavier as a population!

    • Megan Coogle profile image

      Megan Coogle 6 years ago from Alabama

      Loved the article! Great hub!

    • peramore20 profile image

      peramore20 6 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      Thank you MsBizPro

    • peramore20 profile image

      peramore20 6 years ago from Greensburg, PA

      Thank you reindeerz

    • MsBizPro profile image

      Anna Green 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the great information!

    • reindeerz profile image

      reindeerz 6 years ago from Georgia

      Great Hub! :)