After years of telling others to take care of themselves, the fitness guru decided it was time to take his own advice.
After more than four decades of classes, exercise legend Richard Simmons closed the doors earlier this week on 'Slimmons,' the L.A. workout studio he opened in 1974. For many followers of the fitness icon, the move doesn't come as a surprise — but it still marks the end of an era for the countless lives he's changed, both in and outside the studio.
For years, Simmons has been a passionate cheerleader for his followers, encouraging people from all walks of life through his iconic workout videos and TV appearances to be more active, eat smaller portions, and take care of themselves. The Sweatin' to the Oldies creator told fans the news of Slimmons' closing through an emotional Facebook post, saying that it was finally time to take his own advice. "I am being kind to myself, and putting myself first," he said.
Though the news may not have come as a surprise considering the star's infrequent sightings over the last two years, attendees of Slimmons' final studio class told Entertainment Tonight the room was "filled with emotion" despite his absence. The once outgoing personality — at one time a household name and frequent talk show guest — was recently the cause of tabloid speculation that he had become a "recluse," with gossip swirling that he'd been taken hostage by his longtime housekeeper. But after a hospitalization earlier in 2016 for dehydration, Simmons took to the media to dispel any rumors about being trapped in his home or declining health, attributing his absence from the spotlight to a knee injury.
But before the last few years of mystery, Simmons sat down with the editors of Shape to discuss his own weight loss journey and the mantras that motivate him. After going from 200 pounds to the fitness guru he is today, Simmons has always been a force of positivity, for better or worse. His enthusiasm and flamboyant approach — from those teeny-tiny striped shorts to his bedazzled tank tops — have frequently made the 68-year-old an easy target for pranks. But regardless of the critics, he's always remained true to himself and never backed down from his promise: That eating healthy and moving your body can (and should!) be fun and enjoyable.
So if Jillian Michaels is the living room workout queen of present-day, Richard Simmons is a friendlier, bouncier version from another era. His dance-infused, step-aerobics routines have inspired generations of Americans to "sweat it out!" in their living rooms, and my family was no exception. Some of my earliest memories with my grandmother are soundtracked to his Sweatin' to the Oldies collection, listening to Simmons shout encouragements to his videotaped class while my grandmother and I kept up to Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
After adopting a healthier lifestyle in her fifties, it was this larger-than-life personality that helped jump-start my grandmother's passion for fitness. In the following decades (and well into her seventies), she took Simmons' fun approach to exercise to the next level — learning to kayak, riding in a triathlon, and taking regular spin classes — all while battling multiple forms of cancer. While I admittedly don't make it to the gym as often as I should, these early lessons with my grandmother and Richard Simmons helped teach me the earliest lessons of working out: That it can be fun, it can be silly, and that every shape and size is welcome.
So thanks to the guy who has truly dedicated his life to inspiring others to "get up and get moving!" You've truly made a difference in countless lives through the years, and we can't wait to see what's next.