In 1982, Jane Fonda’s Workout sparked a home fitness craze and still holds the record for best-selling video of all time. Now after a 15-year break from the business, the 72-year-old actress is back with a series of DVDs aimed at her own demographic. The latest, “Prime Time: Trim, Tone and Flex” and “Prime Time: Firm & Burn,” hit stores on Dec. 6.
While Fonda never thought she’d return to fitness videos, she was motivated by a lack of routines tailored to aging bodies—especially given increasing evidence that exercise affects both physical and mental fitness as we age.
“It’s one thing to exercise or not exercise when you’re young—your body’s forgiving,” she says. “When you get older, it becomes mandatory to stay physically active. If you don’t, almost every part of your physical being is going to be impacted negatively, most importantly your brain. It can make the difference between going through the last third of your life with well-being or not.”
Her first two videos, released last year — “Prime Time: Walkout” and “Prime Time: Fit & Strong” feature low-impact workouts that emphasize cardiovascular health and mobility for the senior set. A chair provides balance and gives the routines diversity without adding extra strain, and light weights help strengthen core muscles. Fonda even includes info about Kegel exercises to help combat incontinence.
Some of the conventional wisdom about fitness has changed since Fonda’s last videos, 1995’s Personal Trainer series, but she has gladly embraced the evolution, especially the concepts of core strengthening and interval training.
“We used to concentrate a lot on the very large muscle groups. If someone had asked me [back then] to lie on my stomach on one of those large balls … doing a series of small lifts with 3-pound weights, I would have thought they were crazy,” she says with a laugh. “And now I do that every day in order to avoid rotator cuff problems.”
These days, her own personal workout regimen also incorporates outdoor hiking at her New Mexico ranch, as well as weight training and a recumbent bike routine that is easy on her hip and knee replacements. Maintaining such a commitment to fitness isn’t easy with a busy schedule, but she’s reminded daily of its importance.
“Every time I get out of the car,” she says, “this thought comes to my mind: ‘Thank God, Jane, you’ve done this work and you’ve got strong thighs so you can get out of a car without being helped.”
But lest any seniors be discouraged by their own decreasing strength and mobility, she urges them not to give up.
“Just because you have to go slower, take fewer risks and be more careful doesn’t mean you should stop,” she says. “My mantra is just do it. Just keep going, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if you do the minimum. Just do it.”