50 Years Ago This Groundbreaking Indoor Cycle Changed Fitness
In 2018, the digital technology available on cardio equipment is astonishing.
Today’s premium Life Fitness cardio lines offer an interactive digital experience from consoles like Discover SE3 HD. Exercisers can watch TV, browse the internet, be entertained by their favorite apps, run and bike through interactive courses, and use several different training programs to keep them motivated. The consoles even sync with the wearable tracking devices exercisers wear on the wrists. Connected cardio equipment can now even be managed with with digital tools like Halo Fitness Cloud, which doesn't just provide detailed equipment use information, but also lets trainers and health club managers communicate with their members.
But in 1968, when the first Lifecycle bike was invented, innovation and technology were decidedly different.
The Beginning of the Fitness Industry
The modern-day fitness industry was in its infancy in 1968. It’s the year that Dr. Kenneth Cooper wrote the bestselling book, Aerobics, about a strange new phenomena and the revolutionary—and, at the time, controversial—idea that exercise has plenty of health benefits. Boutique studios didn't exist and the recreational running craze was a few years away from picking up steam. It’s also the year that Dr. Keene Dimick invented the first piece of electronic fitness equipment, known as the Lifecycle.
An Interval Workout, 50 Years Ago
Dr. Dimick was a chemist who was driven to invention by a desire to improve the effectiveness of his own exercise routine. The Lifecycle that he created provided a 12-minute workout that started with a warm up, four hills with progressively harder resistance, and a cool down (Dr. Dimick actually referred to it as a “warm-down”). The bike provided efficient interval training long before the everyday exerciser knew what interval training was.
What Cutting-Edge Technology Looked Like in 1968
The Lifecycle’s fancy display was far from the integrated TV and interactive touchscreens of today’s fitness equipment. The bike displayed pulse, calories burned (per hour), exercise level and speed—all with decidedly low-tech dials. A larger moving dial in the center of the console showed the exerciser how much time was left in the workout and depicted the hills the user was pedaling over.
Workout tracking was also ahead of its time, but a far cry from today’s fitness world where we’re used to wearable devices and watches that track nearly every move we make and even tell us how much sleep we get each night.
The original bike came with a pulse detector ear clip (shown at right) and a Lifecycle progress card where users could (with a pen or pencil) manually track their weekly progress. Again, this may seem rudimentary by today's standards, but 50 years ago the idea of documenting workouts was ahead of its time.
This technological innovation didn’t come cheap. This cutting-edge fitness option was available for around $3,000, which in 2018 is the equivalent of approximately $22,000. That a pricey piece of exercise equipment, and at the time it cost about the same as a Ford Mustang convertible.
Lifecycle to Life Fitness
Life Fitness grew out of Dr. Dimick's technological marvel. Health club owner Ray Wilson bought the rights to the bike from Dr. Dimick in the early 1970s. Wilson and co-founder Augie Nieto created Lifecycle Inc., which eventually became Life Fitness.
Life Fitness hasn't forgotten Dr. Dimick's innovative spirit. For five decades we've crafted state-of-the art cardio and strength equipment that shares some of the DNA of that original Lifecycle. We've taken Dr. Dimick's vision and continuously evolved. It's hard to gauge just much influence the bike has had on today's fitness industry. But the large cardio areas in health clubs certainly would look a lot different if the Lifecycle never came to be.