Prancercise is a holistic fitness method based on “a springy, rhythmic way of moving forward, similar to a horse’s gait and ideally induced by elation” created by Joanna Rohrback. It has been compared to the low-impact aerobics that were popularized by 1980s workout videos. Many parodies were created in reaction to Rohrback’s original video, which themselves have accumulated hundreds of thousands of views.
Joanna Rohrback graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a bachelor’s degree in Health Services in 1978. Around 1989 she became a “committed exercise devotee”, regularly working out on the Boardwalk in Hollywood Beach, FL. It was on that Boardwalk where Joanna had an experience she claims was the inspiration for Prancercise: :One morning […], while power walking, with ankle weights on, there must have been an exceptionally good song on my Walkman, cause as I attempted to stretch out my legs to get the maximum muscle tone in my buttocks, hips and thighs, I somehow started naturally rocking and twisting my whole body. As I proceeded, my arms started following the rest of my body, in rhythm. The next thing I knew, I was nearly dancing, but not quite. That same year she created the first video to feature the routine entitled “Funky Punky’s Prancercise Program.” Joanna quit her job and decided to focus on her new discovery. She practiced it every day, “taking years to hone its every gesture and kick.” Rohrback coined Prancercise as a means to vividly illustrate her comprehensive diet and fitness program, modeling it after the “strength and beauty of a horse.” From this she developed four distinct routines: the Prancercise Walk, the Prancercise Trot, the Prancercise Gallop, and the Prancercise Box. However, 1994 started a near-decade of personal setbacks for Joanna Rohrback. She wrote a book about Prancercise but couldn’t find a publisher. Her mother then began to experience complications from Parkinson’s disease – so Joanna became her live-in caregiver. In 2004, after her mother died, Joanna also began to suffer from severe health complications. She was unable to Prancercise for almost nine years. During this time she maintained a natural healing regimen; by her 60th birthday, Joanna Rohrback was able to Prancercise once again. She decided to focus on her technique and started increasing her daily workouts. On Thanksgiving Day 2012, Rohrback successfully completed a 5k entirely in Prancercise. After this event, she decided to package her idea for the public sphere. In December of that year she self-published her manuscript titled, “Prancercise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence.” Then, on Christmas Day, she uploaded a YouTube video featuring her fitness routine. The video went viral with over 10 million views and has attracted national and international attention.
Prancercise has also been the subject of negative attention, much of it mocking the regimen. In May 2013, Joanna Rohrback demonstrated Prancercise to Al Roker and Natalie Morales on The Today Show. In July 2013, she starred in the official music video for John Mayer’s hit single Paper Doll. In September 2013, she appeared in a promotional video for Wonderful Pistachios and e-cigarette brand Bull Smoke. She also appeared on the Comedy Central show Tosh.0 with Daniel Tosh and The Steve Harvey Show. In October 2013, she appeared on The Dr. Oz show. In November 2013, she appeared on South Beach Tow. In December 2013, she was named the Surprise Star of the Year by CNBC and appeared in YouTube’s 2013 Rewind Mashup video, which has garnered over 15 million views in less than 48 hours. In 2013 Joanna Rohrback and prancercise appeared on South Beach Tow where Joanna’s car was repossessed and she taught prancercising to Tremont Towing dispatcher Dave Kosgrove who used it to help repossess a car. In March 2014 Joanna Rohrback appeared in the popular TV show Glee as one of the judges at Nationals.