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Jane Fonda: 'I'm sore, so I must exist'

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Jane Fonda on healthy ageing

Academy Award winning actress and fitness icon, Jane Fonda reveals what keeps her fit and strong.

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For Jane Fonda, fitness is not just physical.

The 76-year-old actor and activist says it has helped her stay centred and emotionally strong through a life that has seen her weather the suicide of her mother when she was twelve, a father who was frosty at best, bulimia, three divorces, breast cancer and osteoarthritis. To name a few.

In Australia for this week's relaunch of gym giant Fitness First, the two-time Oscar winning actor herself built an exercise empire more than 30 years ago.

Jane Fonda, with daughter Vanessa, her second husband Tom Hayden and their son, Troy.

Jane Fonda, with daughter Vanessa, her second husband Tom Hayden and their son, Troy.

Just last year, Fonda released the latest of her 23 workout videos, which have sold more than 17 million copies since 1982.

"I believe in fitness," she says. "Whether you're young, whether you're old, whether you've ever been exercising or just starting. It's important. Maybe the most important thing in having a successful, long life."

It has been of profound importance for Fonda, who comes from a "long line of depressives" and recently said that she once "thought I was going to die of loneliness, I was so unhappy".

Jane Fonda as 'Barbarella'.

Jane Fonda as 'Barbarella'. Photo: Hulton Archive

On the night of her 51st birthday, her second husband, politician Tom Hayden revealed he was in love with another woman. It was the final straw in a fraught relationship that spanned nearly two decades.

In anguish, Fonda sat on her exercise bike and cycled furiously for five hours.

"The physical pain is nothing compared to what I am feeling emotionally. I'm breaking apart," she told Newsweek at the time.

Today, she says of the period, "If you're in the middle of a nervous breakdown, working out really hard is not a bad thing because it does keep you from going over the edge - it gets the endorphins going. And it was kind of like 'I'm sore, so I must exist'.

"I know, in the deepest part of myself, the importance of remaining physically active, even if you're going through a nervous breakdown, even if you're older or have body parts that are falling off... it makes all the difference in the world."

Not surprisingly, Fonda hasn't let hip and knee replacements get in the way of her exercise routine.

"I'm glad I live at a time when you can replace fenders and hubcaps... instead of saying 'well, I have these problems so I'm going to stop', what's happened is I've adjusted how I work out to my physical limitations."

There seems little that would stop Fonda. She works with various charities, is set to release a book for adolescents on bullying and body image, is writing a fiction book and is working on numerous on-screen projects.

Although she lives life at full throttle, she believes fitness fanaticism has helped her find harmony in life.

"The fact that I have always remained physically active has had a great deal to do with [staying sane and humble]. It has kept me centred and balanced emotionally."

But, it's not all just about the workout.

"I also meditate," the mother of three says. "And I also have a very strong social network... I mean a group of women together, the way we laugh when we can laugh, there ain't nothing like that... we go deep don't we and we guffaw. Maintaining physical fitness and social networks is so critical to successful ageing."

18 comments so far

  • What an impressive woman. Her honesty, intelligence and humility make her a stunningly beautiful person. Pity about the looks though :-)

    Commenter
    De JaView
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    January 22, 2014, 10:15AM
    • Google: Hanoi Jane.

      Commenter
      11SW
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 12:39PM
    • Sure, what Jane Fonda has achieved in her lifetime is very impressive. Shame she couldn't live up to her 80s mantra of 'exercise & diet will save you from getting old & wrinkly' and instead embraced plastic surgery How do I (and many others) get a refund, so that we can continue to follow in her footsteps?

      Commenter
      CC
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 2:55PM
    • Hanoi Jane gave aid and comfort to the enemy when Americans were being tortured at the Hanoi Hilton. They didn't choose to go to Vietnam and her behaviour is not excused by blaming the US government.

      She has hip and knee replacements, which in my view doesn't say much for her exercise videos. Exercise is supposed to help you avoid such things. My own knees never recovered from buying her exercise book and video of the 1980s in the vain hope of looking like her, so I won't be too quick to buy whatever she is selling now..

      Commenter
      ikate
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 3:06PM
    • @iKate - obviously, humanitarian works during war times is an alien concept to you. the law of war protects innocent people who are not taking part in the killing. Perhaps the works of 'red cross' or even the Geneva conventions are not in your dictionary. BTW, exercise is not a deterrent against ageing. She is a woman of conscience advocating healthy lifestyle NOT ETERNAL LIFE.

      Commenter
      BTW
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 5:15PM
    • I did some research into the rumours about her July 1972 trip to North Vietnam where she spoke to US POW's. There is no evidence to support the allegations against her. The POW's who were quoted in the rumours, particularly the one alledging she handed over ID numbers to the camp commander, have all been subsequently interviewed and have denied the veracity of the rumours. It was however confirmed that she did make anti war remarks, similar to the remarks about 50 million anti war protestors in the US were making. She subsequently also apologised to US servicemen for any offence she may have caused. The issue about her being photographed on a Vietcong gun battery was a beat up, but she still apologised for being thoughtless about the message it may have sent.

      Hardly your vehement 'traitor' or whatever else she has been accused of. Yet another example not to believe everything you read.

      Commenter
      De JaView
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 5:51PM
  • What a pity this disgraceful excuse for a woman gets any press time,her betrayal of her country during the Vietnam war was nothing short of treason.

    Commenter
    Pedro
    Location
    Cairns
    Date and time
    January 22, 2014, 12:40PM
    • The US (and Australia) had no business being in Vietnam (just as we had no business, other than oil business, being in Iraq). Jane Fonda is a saint compraed to war criminals Nixon, Bush, Blair and Howard.

      Commenter
      Jace
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 1:15PM
    • There were cross-sections of American people who were anti-Vietnam war. In fact the treason you so aptly described was in fact known as 'Peace movement'. As for the 'Hanoi Jane' memory land, it was miniscule compared to the war itself.

      Commenter
      Marching Protest
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 5:41PM
    • Jace, you are a fool with no idea of what happened.

      Commenter
      Amazed
      Location
      Warner
      Date and time
      January 22, 2014, 8:27PM

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