BodyBreak Fitness Series

Iconic BodyBreak Fitness Series was Originally Launched to Battle Racism

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For people who grew up in the 80s, the BodyBreak fitness series was something many of us saw in the midst of the TV commercials that broke up our favorite shows.  It was popular in certain US states and took off in Canada.  Its hosts were Hal Johnson and Joanne McCloud.  That said, unbeknownst to most viewers, these video clips were about more than encouraging an active lifestyle and nutritious eating habits. 

The Fitness Series Was Designed to Combat Racism

According to Johnson in a recent YouTube video he released in June 2020, the healthy lifestyles promoted by the BodyBreak fitness series included a healthy mindset toward equality, not just a good opinion of eating right and exercising regularly.  The long running video clip series was formed, in part, in an effort to battle racism. 

In the YouTube video, the TV personality, who made a television comeback with McCloud in a recent season of The Amazing Race, detailed his experience in the media.  The four-minute long video described Johnson’s struggles in being treated equally when he was hired as a sports reporter in 1988, but was then told later that day that he would not have the position after all because the network executives didn’t want two Black reporters, and they already had one.

Johnson went on to talk about other incidences in which white colleagues received preferential treatment and in which he faced open discrimination. The instances were neither few in numbers nor were they subtle.

It was after one of those instances when Johnson went home and created a storyboard designed to help everyone live, work, and play together in a healthful way, calling it BodyBreak.

The Concept

The fitness series was pitched by the two hosts to 42 different companies, all of which rejected it.  Though one producer thought the concept was spectacular, he said that the public wasn’t ready for a Black and white couple and that the only way he could make it happen would be to replace Johnson with a white man.

Johnson and McCloud discovered a Canadian federal healthy living program called ParticipACTION and decided to pitch there. Not long afterward, they had their first 6 episodes.  From there, it continued successfully, having made 65 episodes throughout its lifetime.

Though Johnson didn’t directly mention the battle against racism as a lesson in the BodyBreak episodes, the fact that a Black man and white woman were paired as the hosts was a visible demonstration on the TV screen.  It wasn’t until 2020 that Johnson shared this part of the story, saying that it was only now that he felt people were ready to listen.  That fitness wasn’t just a part of eating right, being active and being social, it was also about equality of all people. Following the overwhelming response to his video, Johnson hopes people will view the fitness series as videos “Showing that everyone, regardless of your gender, regardless of your ethnicity, regardless of your ability, we can all live, work and play together.”