Vintage Workouts: Shape Up For Summer the British Pathe Way!

The great British summer is here! You might not be able to tell from the sky but there lies a clue in the sudden splurge of diet fads and health initiatives. Food packaging and advertising that is suddenly noisy with buzz phrases like “summer glow”, “feel-good skin”, “beach body” and “shaping up for summer”. All that these companies really care about is your cash. They couldn’t care less if the WWF’s Whale Rescue Operations Team rush towards you the second you step onto the beach next month.

We here at British Pathe do care however. We may have closed our production doors in the 1970s, but that’s not to say we don’t have some darn good fitness tips for you. Britons have always been body-conscious and if anything we should know best because people looked a lot healthier in the past. Here are 5 archive favourites for you:


“Girls, after you’ve helped to win the war you’ll still have another battle on your hands – the battle of the bulges!”

This cheeky newsreels is essentially eye-candy for wartime soldiers, packaged by British Pathe under the guise of health and fitness advice. Sadly not many of us have a harness room full of metal wheels and rubber hoops to tone ourselves with, so let’s try another one…


“Millions want to get back their youthful lines yet middle-aged spread remains unconquered. Eating fat is the latest theory!”

Way before the Atkins diet British Pathe was showcasing a no-carb all-fat diet that mimicked that of a neanderthal. This approach is still popular today. We love the British Pathe musical score on this one, and the fact that nothing has changed – “Every paper and magazine you pick up tells you how to do it”. But 50 years later and we’re still struggling, and the problem with Atkins diet is your can still join that ice-cream van queue on the beach…


“British Pathe present Edit Mezey, Hungarian Physical Culture Expert, showing you the best ‘slimming’ exercises”

Everyone loves a Hungarian Physical Culture Expert. This lovely 1930s workout video could teach Davina McCall a thing or two, firstly – wearing high heels! We love that the word slimming is put into inverted commas as if to say “Is this really a thing?” Let us know how you get on with the routine, we’re a bit worried you might develop an insane indelible smile though. Fourth time lucky…


OK, we’re speechless. We’ve never seen anything that looks so painful! These springy machines that essentially look like perverted deckchairs are supposed to help the body stretch, tone and slim? They were most probably taken off the market after the first ten hip-replacement law cases came through. We’re left with one last chance of getting slim for summer…


Finally, our favourite approach! Just embrace who you are and stop worrying. Life’s too short!

This video “Miss Fat and Beautiful” is a celebration of curviness and having a bit of junk in the trunk. Some would argue these ladies aren’t even that fat by today’s supersize standards. Indeed, there are baffled Americans leaving comments beneath this video on YouTube like “What? Where are the fat people?”

Wherever you are going on holiday this summer, forget what anyone else thinks, roll out your beach fat with your beach mat, have a paddle, get stuck into a good book and just get on with enjoying those short-lived well-earnt summer days. Of course you can always enjoy a spot of looking at other peoples’ beautiful bodies whilst enjoying a cooling pint of lager, they wouldn’t have gone to all that effort if they didn’t want to be gawped at. And if you do really want to get slim then here is our British Pathe secret, don’t tell anyone else, we’ve never put it in a newsreel before:

THE SECRET: Wake up early, walk to work, drinks lots of water and stop eating crap after 8pm.

Browse and enjoy 90,000 free archive videos on our website

Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

One thought on “Vintage Workouts: Shape Up For Summer the British Pathe Way!”

  1. Great post! I laughed so much watching number 4 😀 My favourite workouts so far are the ones made by BeachBody ( so you can imagine how hilarious the videos you posted look to me! Finally I think I’m delighted to live in the 21st century! I love your blog, vintage videos are so funny :DD

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