Jane Fonda isn't letting cancer treatment slow her down. Movement and exercise are helping the 84-year-old, who recently made her Non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis public, manage tiredness that can be a side-effect of chemotherapy, she shared in a blog post on her website.
Fonda first revealed her diagnosis on Instagram in early September 2022, noting that she will be completing six months of chemo as treatment. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma is type of cancer that begins in the lymphatic system, which is part of the body's immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's "very treatable" and has a high survival rate, added Fonda in the caption of her post.
Now, just a few weeks into her chemo treatment, Fonda seems to be doing well. "About three weeks from my first chemo session, I must tell you that I feel stronger than I have in years," wrote Fonda in her recent blog post. "The doctor told me the best antidote to the tiredness that chemotherapy can cause is to move."
In an effort to do just that, Fonda has been walking (before the heat kicks in) and working out, she shared on her website. To illustrate, Fonda posted a YouTube clip of herself working out in a pair of sunglasses. In the video, she's doing wall squats with her back against an exercise stability ball on the wall while holding a purple dumbbell in each hand.
It's no secret exercise can give you energy, but experts confirm it can be especially helpful for those with tiredness caused by cancer treatment. "Cancer-related fatigue is usually feeling tired or exhausted because of cancer or its treatment, and it's not relieved with rest," explains Tara Sanft, M.D., associate professor of medicine (medical oncology) at the Yale Cancer Center, who leads research into the impact of exercise on cancer treatment and outcomes. "It doesn't get better after a really good nap or a great night's sleep. So, resting more isn't a good treatment for cancer-related fatigue."
Physical activity, though, is a solid option to address that tiredness. Studies show patients who are moving more during cancer and after cancer treatment report less fatigue than those who have not, says Dr. Sanft. Exactly why this is the case isn't totally clear yet, she adds.
The American Cancer Society also offers information about the relationship between cancer and exercise on its website. "Research shows that for most people exercise is safe and helpful before, during, and after cancer treatment," notes the organization. "It can help improve your quality of life as well as the energy you have to do the things you like."
As for how patients can engage in exercise to reap these benefits, that depends on the individual, as Fonda has demonstrated. "Any form of exercise that the patient enjoys is a good thing to do," says Dr. Sanft, adding that walking is a great place for patients to start because it's affordable and relatively safe — even if you've never exercised before.
Fonda is no beginner when it comes to exercise. The Grace and Frankie star and climate activist is known for her 1980s fitness video tapes and has continued to emphasize the importance of physical activity. However, while she may be able to casually power through wall squats, most cancer patients should consult a professional before adding strength training into their routine, says Dr. Sanft.
Overall, it seems as though exercise is helping Fonda feel her best during her cancer treatment. Here's to a speedy recovery and more workout inspiration for her fans!