Skip Navigation

Then & Now: Fitness Gear & Equipment

Then & Now: Fitness Gear & Equipment

Wish Book

It's fair to say the fitness game has changed a little over the years. If you want proof, just flip through some of the past Sears Wish Books (Don't worry. We did it for you!). In fact, you won't even find the word "fitness" in these catalogs for decades. It finally shows up to the P.E. party in 1968 with a mat that features footsteps—for those of us who literally need help taking the first step.

Check out how far we've come with these fitness fads of old and their modern counterparts. As with all things related to workout habits, enjoy the activity and try not to judge.

Easier Then

Long before insomniacs were binge-watching infomercials, Sears advertised the Firm-Line Home Plan program. According to the 1959 Christmas Book, all you needed to "discover the spirit of youth" was Firm-Line tablets to reduce your food cravings, along with vibration of the Firm-Line massager—all for $169.97! The fold-up, motorized equipment dates back to an unfortunate (or possibly blissful) time when moving parts did the work for you, and this was "exercise."

Smarter Now

Well, so much for chasing your youth lying down. This year's Wish Book is full of machines that get you running, spinning, climbing and more, complete with up-to-date smart technology that conjures scenery from around the world and delivers virtually limitless instruction.

Firm-Line Home Plan Table in the 1959 Sears Christmas Book
NordicTrack C950 i Treadmill in 2017 Sears Wish Book
Fitness watches and trackers in 2017 Sears Wish Book

Couples' workout gear in 1977 Sears Wish Book
Family in fitness gear in 2017 Sears Wish Book

His & Hers Then

Flash forward to Wish Books of the 1970s, where women are now exercising alongside the guys. No more weight benches for him and croquet sets for her—it's all a big liberated mess now, but it’s cool. Where there are leisure suits for fashion, there are warm-up suits for working out, and they even come in his-and-hers pairs. Coordinating tennis shoes and visors sold separately.

Everyone Now

Fitness is a family affair in 2017, and it's all about individual style and favorite activities. She’s tearing up the treadmill in her leggings and sports bra, while he’s cycling in a moisture-wicking t-shirt and shorts. The kids get in on the action, too, with hoodie jackets, jogger pants and sweet attitude graphics.

Like a Perfect 10 Then

Can we see some leotards, stirrup pants and leg warmers, please? In the "Let's-Get-Physical" age—you betcha! And who better to sell these fitness/fashion crossovers than gold medalist Mary Lou Retton? The champion who made gymnastics a U.S.-dominated Olympic sport also dominated several pages of the 1985 Wish Book, modeling activewear sets and separates emblazoned with a red, white and blue "10" logo—you know, because that is in no way an impossible standard for kids who can't do somersaults.

Like Real Life Now

While the latest Wish Book won't bring you celebrity branding, you'll find plenty of products for everyday living that offer solutions to life's little problems. Sometimes, no Namaste—you can't do your yoga poses in peace. Sometimes, there's simply no time to exercise, but you'll absolutely have quality gear and comfortable clothes when your fitness fits in. No stunts or flips required, except metaphorically speaking.


Mary Lou Retton's line of fitness gear in the 1985 Sears Wish Book
Yoga apparel and equipment from 2017 Sears Wish Book

More Wish Book Then & Nows