His inspiring message will live on

March 2011

Jack back in the day on “The Jack LaLanne Show”

When it comes to legends, you may mention names such as Clint Eastwood or Katherine Hepburn when it comes to movie stars, or Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali when it comes to sports figures. There are, indeed, many other great actors and athletes that could be mentioned. But when it comes to the fitness industry, what defines greatness? Who is truly a legend? For many, Jack LaLanne is that legend. Jack died on January 23rd at the age of 96, and American Fitness would like to pay homage to him and his amazing life.

Referred to as “The Godfather of Fitness,” LaLanne was born in San Francisco in 1914. As a child, he had struggles with junk food. At 15, he heard a speech from wellness pioneer, Paul Bragg. It changed his life. LaLanne focused his energy on proper diet and exercise from that point on.

He studied Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body, which enhanced his focus to include bodybuilding, chiropractic medicine and weight lifting. He truly pioneered these fields in the early ’30s. LaLanne opened his first health spa in 1936 and designed the world’s first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables and weight selectors—now a standard in the fitness industry. LaLanne was the first to suggest that women can work out with weights.

“People thought I was a charlatan and a nut. The doctors were against me,” LaLanne recalled. “They said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.”

Jack LaLanne’s other achievements include:


  • Age 37: Launched The Jack LaLanne Show which spanned 34 years, making it the longest running exercise TV show


  • Age 40: He swam the length of the Golden GateBridge under water tugging 140 pounds of equipment, setting a world record


  • Age 60: He swam from AlcatrazIsland to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed and shackled, while tugging a 1,000-pound boat


  • Age 70: Handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, accompanying 70 people for a mile-and-a-half through Long BeachHarbor


  • Age 80: He was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the State of California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness


  • Age 90 and beyond: LaLanne, along with his wife of 53 years, Elaine, graced TV once again promoting his Power JuicerTM


When it came to nutrition, LaLanne was once quoted as saying, “If man made it, don’t eat it,” and “if it tastes good, spit it out.” He only ate two meals a day consisting of raw vegetables, egg whites and fish.

American Fitness has spotlighted LaLanne on several occasions including a cover in March of 2000, the launch of his nephew’s (Chris LaLanne) gym in November 2008, and in September 2009, he was featured in an article on Denise Austin. “I went on Jack LaLanne’s TV show right out of college…,” recalled Austin. “I still credit him with giving me what I really wanted in life—to be an active part of the fitness world.”

LaLanne has been an inspiration to many fitness professionals, including AFAA presenter Lawrence Biscontini. “In the fitness dictionary for all generations, Jack LaLanne’s name was the living personification of the words ‘youthful,’ ‘motivating’ and ‘inspirational,’ Biscontini said. “Let us carry on his message for generations.”

On his blog at http://www.jacklalanne.com, his wife wrote, “Jack has left the world a happy, healthier, more fit place, and his legacy will live on forever.” This will hold true—not only with the man himself and his many achievements—but in his words as well: “Anything in Life is Possible, if YOU Make it Happen!”