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This 40-Year-Old Workout Video Is Still One of the Best Ever Made


When I was growing up, Workout Starring Jane Fonda was my favorite video in the family video library. I still remember looking at its VHS cover. Jane, who was decked out in leg warmers and a red and black-striped leotard, smiled brilliantly while holding an impossible pointed toe pose. I wondered if I’d ever be as glamorous. An award-winning actress, activist, and a workout guru? How was this possible?! I decided to try it out for myself to see if it’s stood the test of time.

The digital download began with an intro from present-day Jane herself, who still looks incredible, by the way. She mentions that the longstanding success of the workout is due to its simplicity and the fact that it can be done from the comfort and privacy of your own home, allowing for personal modifications and adjusting the pace. There’s no need for equipment — all you need to bring is a good attitude and some leg warmers, if you still have your pair from 1985.

Are 80s aerobics good exercise?

If you were alive in the 80s, you witnessed the aerobics phenomenon. The exercises and their byproducts — from gold lamé headbands to scrunchy socks — were everywhere, and the most popular among them was the Jane Fonda workout. Selling around 17 million copies, women from all over the world loved the mood lift and the body confidence they got by making the video part of their exercise routine. Though it might seem dated, Jane’s jazzy moves and the benefits of aerobic activity, including lower blood pressure and improved circulation, still hold up today.

The workout began with a warmup that made my entire body feel awake. The floor work that followed was as expected — moderately challenging and just enough to make me sweat. What came next, however, was a surprise. The abdominals section was as difficult as any Abs of Steel workout I’d ever done, and I could barely keep up. When I heard Jane say, “Now, it’s time for the buttocks,” I didn’t know if I could keep going — but I did!

Is the Jane Fonda Workout effective?

According to a 1985 Washington Post article, the Jane Fonda Workout stayed at or near the top of the Billboard charts for 184 weeks. Why? Probably because it really works!

This groundbreaking workout video boosts cardiovascular activity and burns a lot of calories. As a forty-something woman who has been running since age 16 and is still in relatively good shape, I was groaning along with everyone else in the video at certain points.

Because I was home alone, I didn’t care how much noise I made — and neither did any of the class members in the video. Their huffs and puffs, cheers of encouragement, and sighs of exertion made me feel like I was right there in the room with them. This inspired me to feel like I was part of a supportive community, and also I felt validated and less alone in my grunting, sweaty efforts.

The instrumental background music had a strong beat — it reminded me of Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone — and conjured memories of doing ‘the bicycle’ with my mom on our living room carpet. (The bicycle, for those who missed the 80s, is when you lie on the floor and extend your legs out, toes pointed, and do a sit-up with your elbow pointed at your opposite knee, alternating slowly, and then in double-time. If you’re wondering whether it’s still hard, it is.)

Where can I buy the Jane Fonda Workout?

The Jane Fonda Original Workout is available for easy digital download (Buy from Amazon, $9.99). You can also purchase it in DVD format. The entire Jane Fonda Workout series includes the original as well as four other videos: the ‘new’ one, a low-impact version, and an easy going, low-impact workout that’s less vigorous than the original. With these different videos, you can tailor your exercise routine to fit your lifestyle and fitness goals.

The online video class Quick Burn: Low-Impact Cardio Workout also provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout that can be done in just 7 minutes!

After 37 minutes of solid activity, I feel refreshed and energized. My one critique is that the stretches were bouncy, or ballistic, and not static (held in place without moving). I like to stretch slowly and carefully because there is less opportunity for injury or strain. If you are considering trying this workout, it’s best to check with your physician beforehand to make sure it’s right for you. If so, you can definitely modify the stretches in the video to make them more gentle and lengthy, which is what I did. We’ll see how my muscles feel tomorrow. As Jane always said, I’ll probably be ‘feeling the burn’ until I start doing this workout regularly, which I fully intend to do!

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