Retro Workouts Are Having a Renaissance in Quarantine

Roller skating, jump-rope workouts, and even Zumba are having a moment.

90s Workout Renaissance
Photo: Photo Illustration: Kelly Chiello/InStyle; Photo: Getty Images

A few weeks ago, during one of my nightly Instagram shopping binges, I found myself with a pair of "lemonpop" yellow roller skates in my cart. To be clear: The last time I was on roller blades, they were Barbie-themed with wheels that lit up, but suddenly, I felt the urge to take up this new hobby (while donning a pair of biker shorts, naturally), just as I was influenced to order $100 worth of tie-dye supplies earlier in quarantine.

The pair I had my eye on (which evoke more Farrah Fawcett vibes than the clunky '90s versions of my youth) is already backordered on Urban Outfitters. Apparently, roller skates are harder to find than ever, thanks in part to Gen Z's favorite app, TikTok.

90s Workout Renaissance
Getty Images

Recently, a TikTok video from actor and dancer Ana Coto roller skating to "Jenny From the Block" went viral, garnering more than 11 million views and counting and it's, well, kind of impossible not to watch on repeat. She's since been credited on Twitter for the new demand for roller skates and is even creating her own pair. (In meantime, other options can be found on retailers like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods.)

Sure, roller blading is a good cardio (and core) workout and more fun than trucking away on the treadmill. But perhaps the emotional appeal is just as strong: Who doesn't want to relive the innocence of childhood (when it was socially acceptable to not know the current day of the week) during a time when we feel bogged down with uncertainty about the future?

Roller skating isn't the only throwback workout having a resurgence during quarantine. While swanky, high-end workout equipment is undoubtedly having a moment (see skyrocketing sales for a $1,500 workout mirror), retro and nostalgic fitness trends have found the perfect time to come back into our lives.

Take for instance the humble jump rope. While jump rope workouts aren't new — Equinox has offered classes for a few years and celeb trainer Amanda Kloots has a whole program, The Rope, based around the activity — this modest piece of workout equipment has achieved a whole new cultural cachet since quarantine began. According to Google Trends, searches for "skipping rope workout" has been steadily on the rise worldwide since April — and it seems everyone I know is adding one to their Amazon cart, right next to their box of hair dye.

If you related to Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, hiding behind a tree in order to get a bootcamp class for free, the jump rope workout trend is for you. It's cheap, it's no-frills, and it's arguably the best cardio workout you can get. Like climbing any set of stairs ever, you will be shocked by how out of breath you will feel attempting to jump rope for 30 seconds — and it also works your shoulders, biceps, abs, butt, and calves at the same time — a multitasker's dream.

Perhaps that's why my Instagram feed has been filled with celebs (who have access to the fanciest home gym equipment around), jumping rope in their all-black workout ensembles. Kourtney Kardashian shared a video of her outdoor jump rope workout in quarantine, and so have Eva Longoria and Jennifer Garner. Earlier this week Halle Berry shared that it's her favorite cardio workout.

Bottom line: If your goal is to burn as many calories as possible in the least amount of time while re-living the days of recess, it might just be time to buy a jump rope. Kloots's own jump rope is currently sold out on her website, but you can shop from a wide selection on Target for as little as $10. Or, If you really want to give your jump rope a 2020 upgrade, you can buy a smart jump rope for $80 to track your workout metrics. (A far cry from the red-and-blue plastic version '90s kids will remember from gym class.)

Another rising Google search trend? The Zumba dance workout — the fitness program created in the '90s with a heavy emphasis on syncing moves to music, which yes, sounds a lot like TikTok's whole deal. The Latin-inspired workout popular with moms (no offense, moms) is finding unlikely success on the platform, with more than 141 million views for videos with the tag #zumba. (Plus, with studios closed, many of its loyal fans are turning to online YouTube workouts for their fix in the meantime.)

Similarly, Tae Bo — a mix of martial arts, boxing, and dance developed by Billy Blanks — is also on the rise, with virtual Tae Bo workout parties gaining popularity, both for the exercise and perhaps some comedic relief, too. (You can stream dozens of full-body workouts on Blanks's YouTube channel.)

As the weather warms up and gyms remain closed, the return of these nostalgic, '90s trends makes sense. Sure, we have sophisticated fitness tech available at our fingertips, but now more than ever, people are looking for ways to let off steam and work out that don't feel like, well, work. Whether it's roller skating, jump roping, or having a corny dance party – these trends serve as a much-needed reminder that we never needed to take our exercise routines so seriously.

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