The photograph on the left was taken on May 18th, 2013 at the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival. On this picture Jane Fonda is 75 years old. She looks great to say the least. Many would agree that she looks better than many women half her age.
A beautiful woman, actress, bestselling author, film producer, fitness legend… Should “antiaging expert” be added to this list?
One can say it’s no wonder that Jane is able to look that good. She just has good genes and a ton of money which definitely makes looking good much easier. Plus she doesn’t hide the fact that she had a plastic surgery done on her jaw line and eyes in her early seventies.
But it seems that there is much more to Fonda’s ageless beauty. She definitely knows a lot about how to keep your body and mind in top shape as the time goes on.
In this article we will try to have a deeper look into Jane’s antiaging strategies.
Jane Fonda takes aging seriously
Jane recalls that she started thinking about aging in her mid-forties. Here is how she describes it.
“I began to feel the need to project myself into the future, to visualize who I wanted to be and what regrets I might have that I would need to address before I got too old. I wanted to understand as much as possible what cards age would deal me; what I could realistically expect of myself physically; how much of aging was negotiable; and what I needed to do to intervene on my own behalf with what appeared to be a downward slope”.
Jane says that in her sixties she saw the time ahead as mostly unknown territory because not very many people lived to a very old age before the longevity revolution that happened in the last century. In the attempt to chart a course for herself into her sixties and beyond – into what she calls Act III of the human life – Fonda did a lot of research into new realities of aging and wrote a 400+ page book on this topic.
The Prime Time
The book is called Prime Time: Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit; Making the most of all of your life. It reflects Jane Fonda’s exploration of life landscapes after 45-50 and especially after 60: her own personal research and experience as well as interviewing experts and people who stayed healthy and happy in their eighties, nineties, and beyond hundred.
Whenever someone who looks as good as Jane Fonda at 75 spills their antiaging secrets we listen, so we decided that “Prime Time” definitely deserves to be reviewed on CleanseMasters.
In the beginning of the book Fonda lists eleven components that she believes to be a foundation for happy, healthy, and successful aging. Each of the components is further discussed in a separate chapter (sometimes in several chapters) of the book.
Let’s look into each of the eleven ingredients for successful aging from Jane Fonda’s “Prime Time”.
11 ingredients for successful aging
1. Not abusing alcohol
This point seems obvious. The author nevertheless included it in the list because she discovered that it is considered by some gerontologists to be “the single highest predictor of successful aging”. She clarifies that the proven health risks come from alcohol abuse, not from the moderate alcohol consumption.
2. Not smoking
Not smoking ever or quitting relatively early is another major predictor of healthy aging. It is interesting that Fonda found some evidence that if a person stopped smoking by the mid-forties then by the age of 70 or 80 the consequences of this harmful habit (even if it was more than a pack per day for 20 years) would dissipate and have no further effect on the life span.
3. Getting enough sleep
This point is worth noting if you have a habit of sacrificing sleep in order to achieve more during the day. Though science probably did not discover all health benefits of sleep yet, what is known so far is impressive enough to seriously reconsider the priority we give to getting enough sleep. For example, when we are in a state of deep sleep the body produces increased amounts of the human growth hormone which is important for tissue restoration and repair.
As we age ensuring adequate amount of quality sleep may become more difficult than just going to bed in time. For those who have challenges with sleeping deeply Fonda recommends not to drink caffeinated beverages after lunch and eat foods that contain natural tryptophan (milk, turkey, complex carbs) before bed.
4. Being physically active
Once drinking and smoking are out of the way physical activity becomes the major ingredients in the recipe for successful aging.
Fonda refers to the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Bluettner. The author of this book visited places in the world where large number of people live past a hundred years. One thing all of the centenarians had in common is daily low-intensity physical activity such as hiking, walking, or farming.
Fonda believes that human body is fully capable of vigorous use well into the nineties and longer, though more balance and common sense have to be present. She discusses the four components of a complete weekly exercise regimen – aerobics, resistance, balance, and stretching.
Aerobic exercise helps to lose fat and improves cardiorespiratory system. Both fat accumulation and gradual loss of cardiorespiratory effectiveness come with aging and may cause a noticeable health decline unless counteracted with exercise. This is the main reason why the importance of aerobic training increases dramatically as we age.
Aerobic exercise also releases endorphins, brain chemicals that give relief from pain, reduce stress, improve immune system, help alleviate depression and anxiety, and bring a sense of wellbeing.
Fonda also states that aerobics also improves cognitive functioning by slowing the age related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, part of the brain responsible for reasoning and problem solving.
There are no specific aerobics recommendations in the book except for may be using maximum aerobic capacity as one of the most critical measures of our body’s performance. The author mentiones her Prime Time line of exercise DVDs made specifically for older people.
Multiple benefits of resistance exercise done with weights or with elastic resistance straps make it another necessary component of a fitness program after fifty.
There are three main well known resistance training benefits.
- First is increasing basal (resting) metabolism rate which makes it much easier to maintain a healthy weight.
- Second is increasing muscle mass and strength (counteracting age related muscle loss).
- Third is strengthening the bones (counteracting age related bone density loss).
Resistance training has been also shown to improve cognitive functioning – ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts, and staying focused.
Fonda recommendations do not differ much from the usual weight lifting approach: doing 2 sets if 12-15 repetitions for each major muscle group at least twice a week while making sure that muscles have at least 48 hours to recover between workouts. The only recommendation specific to the older people is to use lighter weights if there are problems with blood pressure or joints. This decrease in weight has to be compensated with doing more repetitions. Weight should be chosen to ensure that the muscles are stressed to the point of cellular fatigue or failure – this is a requirement for muscle growth.
Balance and core training
Strengthening muscles with resistance exercise and aerobics will already improve balance. Additionally Fonda recommends yoga, tai chi, or Pilates. She also tells that whenever she can she stands on one foot when brushing her teeth, combing hair, or waiting in a line and sometimes she does it with closed eyes to challenge her balancing abilities.
Maintaining good flexibility can protect us from injuries which usually become more frequent as people get older. Flexibility exercise mentioned in the book is simply stretching after working and holding each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Yoga, Pilates, or tai chi are also recommended for improving overall flexibility.
In addition to following a weekly exercise routine with all four components listed above Fonda recommends what she calls “here and there exercise” – taking every opportunity to be more physically active throughout the day. She also stressing the importance of body awareness – being attentive to your body and its needs.
5. Eating a healthy diet
Jane Fonda devoted a separate chapter in her book to healthy nutrition. The chapter is called “Now More Than Ever, You Are What You Eat”. This reflects the author’s belief that in the later decades of life quality of one’s food matters much more than in a younger age.
Fonda’s advice includes:
- a moderate calorie-restricted diet;
- cutting back on sugar and consuming less than 30 grams added sugar per day (besides naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and milk products);
- eliminating all trans fats, limiting saturated fats to less than 10-20 grams per day, getting 20-25% of your daily calories from fats, mostly from healthy unsaturated fats;
- keeping salt intake under 2300 milligrams, or ideally, under 1500 milligrams;
- reading labels and avoiding products that contain questionable additives;
- getting 50-60% of your daily calories in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
- eating 5-10 servings of different colored fresh fruit and vegetables every day (color is important because colorful foods are usually rich in nutrients);
- aiming for 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed;
- getting 15% of your daily calories from protein;
- consuming one to three cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy products daily to ensure adequate calcium intake;
- supplementing with 600-800 units of vitamin D daily, or, even better, checking your vitamin D blood level and taking vitamin D supplements aiming for blood level of at least 32 to 40 nanograms per milliliter;
- drinking plenty of fluids;
- limiting alcohol consumption to one serving per day for women and two servings per day for men;
- eating smaller meals and snack only if necessary (carry tasty and filling snack foods with you when you are away from home);
- distributing meals, calories, and nutrients evenly throughout the day;
- snacking only lightly in the evening and at least three hours before going to bed.
Jane also says that though in an ideal world all necessary nutrients would come from food, in reality taking a multivitamin and/or mineral supplement may be a good idea.
6. Maintaining a healthy active brain through learning
This point goes beyond the usual advice to do daily crossword puzzles. To maintain our brain in the top shape we need to do things that we are not accustomed to doing – things that force us to learn, make new demands on our brain, and require making decisions and choices. Sustaining this kind of learning over time is the key to maintaining healthy cognitive function.
Examples of brain exercise mentioned in the book include:
- learning anything new: a new hobby, a new language, a musical instrument;
- meeting new people, social interaction;
- memorizing poetry;
- learning new words.
Fonda also once again brings attention to the fact that remaining fit and continuing exercising as we age is one of the best things we can do to improve brain functioning. She refers to studies that have shown that people in their sixties can reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by half through exercise.
7. Positive attitude
Almost all people that Jane has met who were in their nineties or older seemed to have one thing in common: positivity defined as a way to approach life with humor, gratitude, creativeness, forgiveness, playfulness, and flexibility. Jane mentions the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement which in 2002 revealed that older people with a positive attitude lived seven and a half years longer.
Jane believes that, surprisingly, getting older moves ones perception of life in a more positive direction, so you can expect to be happier at eighty than you were at twenty.
8. Reviewing and reflection on your life
Jane calls a life review one of the smartest things she ever did. This powerful practice involves active remembering of your past, remembering not just with your head, but with your body – envisioning your past experiences and bringing the accompanying emotions back.
Active remembering accompanied with unrestricted breathing can help us deal with past traumas, complete any unfurnished business, forgive ourselves and others, thus bringing us closer to wholeness and contentment.
In her book Fonda talks about her own life review, about techniques she used, such as writing her life story, and about discoveries she made along the way.
9. Loving and staying connected
Having strong social support such as friends, family, and loving partners is well known to have a significant positive effect on longevity, cognitive functioning and overall health.
Fonda devoted several chapters of her book to friendship, dating, love, and sex in the last decades of life. These chapters are very interesting, sometimes eye opening, and full of good practical advice.
10. Giving of oneself
This point is about responsibility of older people to care for the next generations. “Assuming the load of the elder” and giving one’s time, knowledge, experience, resources by mentoring, coaching, guiding becomes an antidote to depression, loneliness, resentment, and grouchiness.
11. Caring about the bigger picture
This last one of the 11 ingredients is somewhat similar to the previous one, but on a larger scale. It is about shifting the focus on oneself to caring about the humanity and the planet and taking on projects that can make world a better place.
It is within our power
All the 11 ingredients of successful aging listed above are within our power. Moreover most of them we can start implementing late in life and still reap the benefits.
There is much more information about every one of the 11 ingredients in the book – each one has at least one chapter devoted to it with examples, real life stories, recommendations, and practical tips. There is also more information beyond the eleven ingredients including anti-aging research, meditation, financial and legal matters, and facing mortality.
The Best Years
“Prime Time” is an inspiring and uplifting book. By the end you can’t help but join the author ‘s believe that during out latest three decades of life we can have some of the best years of our lives, and that it is never too late to start making it so.
If you are going through a stage of your life where you are stressed about inevitable aging it would be a good idea to read Jane Fonda’s “Prime Time” (here is a link to it at amazon.com). It will help you to create a new positive vision for the coming years.