On This Day: Jane Fonda’s First Workout Video Hit the Shelves

by Emily Morgan
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From fitness guru to activist to academy-award-winning actress, Jane Fonda has done it all. 

On this day, nearly 40 years, Jane Fonda was feeling the burn. On April 24, 1982, Fonda released her first workout video, changing the fitness industry forever. The first of her many aerobics tapes, “Jane Fonda’s Workout,” inspired women everywhere to throw on a leotard, tights, and leg warmers to have fun while exercising. 

After she released the tape, it quickly sold over a million copies. The video would even become the blueprint for popular workout platforms we see today. As a result of Fonda’s video, women continue to claim their place as leaders in the fitness world. 

Before becoming an iconic figure in the fitness industry, Fonda had already had massive success. She had already claimed her first Academy Award for “Best Actress” for her role in 1971’s Klute. Off-camera, she also immersed herself in activism as a passionate anti-war protestor. 

Yet her road to becoming an exercise guru was challenging. As a lifelong ballet dancer, she broke her foot on set while filming The China Syndrome and had to find another way to work out. As a result, Fonda fell in love with aerobics classes, which were all the rage in the ’70s and 80s. Together, with the leader of the movement, Leni Cazden, the two opened their first workout studio in Beverly Hills in 1979. At their height, the two saw over 2,000 attendees per week. 

Jane Fonda: Inspire to Perspire

Before releasing her debut workout tape, Fonda cemented her place as a fitness icon when she published her 1981 New York Times bestseller, Jane Fonda’s Workout Book

When Fonda was approached to film a workout video, she had her doubts. She thought it might hurt her career and questioned whether people would have accessibility since, at the time, only ten percent of Americans owned a VCR.  However, Fonda agreed to shoot the video to create more revenue for her then-husband, Tom Hayden’s political organization, A Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED).

“It was spit and prayer, flying by the seat of our tights and leg warmers,” she wrote in a 2012 blog post about the script for the video.  However, little did she know, her workout tape would have an enormous impact on women’s confidence. It solidified a woman’s right to work out, which had been solely a space for men for decades. 

Now, from the comfort of their living rooms, women all over the globe could get their “sweat on.” Today, brands such as SoulCycle and Peloton may have eclipsed aerobics’ popularity, but we can all thank Fonda for giving us the courage to work out in the first place. 

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