The Rise and Fall of the Fitness Generation

The Rise and Fall of the Fitness Generation

The truth is that we started out so strong. Flipping a Frisbee, pumping iron or feeling the burn, most of the 76 million boomers were poster children for health and fitness. Physical perfection was possible — what else could explain a single generation producing Bo Derek and Brad Pitt?

“Baby boomers led an unprecedented fitness revolution, into a kind of golden era of health,” says Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., whose 1968 best-selling Aerobics put modern exercise on the map. In 1968, less than 24 percent of American adults exercised regularly; by 1984, that figure had risen to 59 percent. Cholesterol levels fell, and so did blood pressure. Deaths from heart disease plummeted 48 percent. And, in large part due to boomer mojo, the average life expectancy jumped from 69.7 years for those born in 1960 to 75.4 for those born in 1990, a huge gain.

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