Why Jane Fonda Believes Activism Has Mental Health Benefits


Tiffany Nicholson

In recent months, you were more likely to spot Jane Fonda on Capitol Hill risking arrest than on a red carpet. In October of last year, the Grace and Frankie star temporarily moved to Washington, D.C., to fight for climate change by leading her Fire Drill Friday demonstrations with other activists (and some familiar faces such as Ted Danson, Sam Waterston, Catherine Keener, and Rosanna Arquette). Fonda was arrested almost weekly during the protests, but that didn't (and doesn't) stop her from continuing on, which is no surprise, since civil disobedience in the name of activism is not new to the 82-year-old, who also spoke out against the Vietnam War in the '70s.

For Fonda, activism can provide mental health benefits, especially if you are feeling helpless about what's going on in our world today. "Activism is a great antidote to depression and despair," she told us in a recent interview on Who What Wear. "I think a lot of us are carrying despair in our bodies, consciously or unconsciously, because we know what's happening to the climate, to the ecosystems—and we mourn. It's an existential sadness, and activism is what kind of leads me to that."

Since we got the chance to talk to Fonda about her activism and a variety of other topics like the next season of Grace and Frankie and why she's not going to shop anymore—which you can read more about on Who What Wear—we had to get her take on health and wellness, too. This is the woman who got a lot of people moving in the '80s through her iconic workout videos, after all.

"Well, when you're my age, the keyword is slow," Fonda said when asked how her outlook on exercise has changed. "You have to do everything slowly because you can really hurt yourself otherwise. So I do work out regularly, not so much now that I don't have any time. But when I'm home, even when I'm making Grace and Frankie, I work out a lot, and I do it slowly with a trainer." She continues to work out all body parts, just a bit differently now.

As for what she thinks of the latest fitness trends (like SoulCycle and other boutique fitness classes), she said what keeps you moving is most important. "I think whatever gets people moving is good. I think they're all good. Anything that motivates you and inspires you to get moving is good," Fonda explained. "You just have to find the one that's right for you, and maybe it doesn't remain the same over time. I have tried cycling, Spinning, and it doesn't suit me, but I certainly understand why people love it. I understand why Pilates is so successful and popular. As long as you move; you just keep moving. Stay strong, stay flexible, and stay aerobically fit, which means that you can walk fast without gasping."

Jane Fonda


Tiffany Nicholson

There's really nothing stopping this activist and actress. And when it comes to her personal wellness commandments, or what she does to maintain physical and mental energy to keep going, whether it's in her career or in her important work raising awareness and pushing for action on climate change, she has some words of wisdom that just about anyone can incorporate into their own lives. "I sleep a lot. I meditate. I have downtime to myself to replenish," Fonda says. "I try to have friends that are braver and stronger and more positive than I am, and they're all younger, which means that in eight, nine years when I'm really, really old, I'll still have friends that are alive. And [I] eat healthy food—a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and yogurt." All good tips to live by, we think.

Read the full interview on Who What Wear: Jane Fonda Cordially Invites You to Come Get Arrested.

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