Jane Fonda’s passion for exercise is only getting stronger as she gets older: The 85-year-old actor and climate activist is constantly encouraging her 2.1 million Instagram followers to stay active. And at a recent event hosted by H&M in New York City, she shared that working up a good sweat isn’t the only reason she prioritizes fitness—it keeps her mental health in check too.
“I didn’t know that [exercise] was important to do ’til I was in my 30s,” she said, per People, joking that she reported having a “‘constant period’ all during school” to get out of participating in gym classes. “It wasn’t until my late 30s, early 40s that I started to actually become active. Life before I was active wasn’t nearly as good as when I started to move.”
Once she started prioritizing movement, she noticed her mental health improve—and she continues to exercise to reap those benefits. “I come from a long line of really depressed people,” she said, “and the best way to fight depression is to keep moving.”
Fonda’s thinking is spot on: Regular exercise can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, according to the American Psychological Association. That’s because any form of movement—whether you’re out for a walk or lifting weights in the gym—triggers the release of brain chemicals that can help lift your mood. Exercise can also help take your focus off negative thought patterns, per the Mayo Clinic.
The Original Jane Fonda Workout is one of the top-selling VHS tapes of all time, as SELF previously reported. These days, though, Fonda says she prefers light strength training and incorporating resistance bands into her workouts. In a 2020 interview with Well + Good, Fonda said she works “every muscle group…slowly and very intentionally.”
Working out also helps her stay active in her day-to-day life. “You’ve got to stay strong,” she said. “I have a grandson who’s three years old, and I can still pick him up. I mean, I have to bend my knees and, you know, it takes a long time to get him up there, but I can still pick him up.” Exercise can also help you maintain a certain level of independence, she said: “You want to be able to carry your own bags.”
Fonda also spoke about other recent health challenges at the event and opened up about her experience with non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year. She first announced her diagnosis in September 2022 but is now in remission following chemotherapy. Reflecting on the diagnosis, Fonda said, “I won.”