Today is the 106th birthday of the original fitness guru Jack LaLanne. He did activities in his 70s that most people half that age would not even consider doing. He should be an inspiration to all of us to stay active at any age. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Jack LaLanne
DATE OF BIRTH: 26-Sep-1914
PLACE OF BIRTH: San Francisco, CA
DATE OF DEATH: 23-Jan-2011
PLACE OF DEATH: Morro Bay, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Pneumonia
REMAINS: Buried, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, CA
HIGH SCHOOL: Berkeley High School, Berkeley, CA (1935)
President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
Hollywood Walk of Fame 26-Sep-2002
Jack La Lanne was a juvenile delinquent, once attacking his brother with an axe, and setting his family’s house on fire. In adulthood, he blamed his youthful misbehavior on being fed too many high-sugar foods. At 15, his mother dragged him to hear a speech by nutritionist Paul Bragg (1895-1976), where La Lanne was inspired to reform his eating habits. He eliminated everything made with white flour or white sugar from his diet, and instead ate almost nothing but fruits, vegetables, and fish for the rest of his life. Healthy foods were hard to find, so La Lanne concocted his own recipes, and by the age of 18 he owned a health-food bakery.
At 21, he opened his first gym in Oakland, California. It was 1936, and most doctors at the time warned against working out with weights, believing it could cause a heart attack or ruin a man’s sex drive, but as his gym grew into a chain of fitness clubs there were no reports of members dying or losing interest in sex, and La Lanne, first seen as a crackpot, gradually came to be seen as America’s foremost authority on fitness. To add variety to his customers’ workouts, he devised such now-standard equipment as leg-extension machines and weights on pulleys for lifting. Over subsequent years, he was among the first to produce protein supplements and nutrition bars.
Beginning in 1951, La Lanne hosted and produced The Jack La Lanne Show, TV’s first workout program. On his show, he performed calisthenics, usually with only a chair or table ledge as ‘equipment’, while cheerfully pointing at the camera and urging his audience to “Get up, work out, and feel better”. At first the show aired only in San Francisco, and La Lanne had to buy the air time, as TV executives were sure nobody would want to watch him do exercises. Within a few years, the program was nationally syndicated on ABC, where millions watched La Lanne do exercises until 1985.
After his TV show ended, La Lanne remained in the public eye with a series of fitness stunts, usually performed on his birthday. In 1955, he swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco, while wearing handcuffs. In 1991, for his 70th birthday, he swam a mile while shackled to 70 boats carrying 70 people. Even in his 90s, La Lanne remained in good health, selling juicers in TV infomercials and working out two hours every day — an hour in the gym, and an hour in the pool. He said he had not missed a day of workouts — or had a sugary dessert — since 1930.
“I don’t care how old I live”, he once said, “I just want to be living while I am living!” He was 96 when he died of respiratory failure brought about by pneumonia, in 2011. According to media reports, he was clutching an exercise weight in his bed when he passed away.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
How to Live Forever (Oct-2009) · Himself
The Year Without a Santa Claus (11-Dec-2006)
Beefcake (Sep-1998) · Himself
Repossessed (14-Sep-1990) · Himself
More Wild Wild West (7-Oct-1980)
The Ladies’ Man (28-Jun-1961) · Himself
Author of books:
Eat the LaLanne Way, to Promote Health, Preserve Youth, Prolong Life (1954)
The Jack LaLanne Way to Vibrant Good Health (1960)
Abundant Health and Vitality After 40 (1962)
Jack LaLanne’s Slim and Trim Diet and Exercise Guide (1969)
Revitalize Your Life After 50 (1990)
Celebrating 90 Plus Years of Healthy Living (1990, with Lynda Gentile, JoEllen Hansen)
Fiscal Fitness: 8 Steps to Wealth & Health (2008, with Matthew J. Rettick)
Live Young Forever: 12 Steps to Optimum Health, Fitness & Longevity (2009)