Jack LaLanne, born in 1914 in San Francisco, California, was a pioneer in the fitness industry. He is known as the “Godfather of Fitness,” “The First Fitness Superhero,” and the “Grandfather of Fitness.” It is from his name where the phrase “getting jacked” comes from. With his unwavering dedication and passion for health and wellness, he transcended the barriers of age and served as an inspiration for many, both young and old, to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Jack LaLanne’s Fitness Beginnings
Jack’s fascination with fitness started at an early age. He developed an addiction to junk food, candy, and other unhealthy snacks. He was depressed and a self-proclaimed tyrant of his family. He desperately needed a change. (1)
“[I] tried to kill my brother, had an uncontrollable temper, set the house on fire,” he recalled in an interview. “I can’t believe it. I was a maniac. I was a psycho. Had these headaches all the day, couldn’t stand the pain. All from sugar, sugar, sugar.” (2)
At the age of 15, his mother brought him, somewhat reluctantly, to a lecture by nutritionist Paul Bragg. Bragg’s talk on proper nutrition and exercise benefits inspired Jack to change his life. From that moment onward, he turned his life around. He quit sugar entirely and began exercising. From 1930 until the day he died in 2011, he did not have a single sweet or miss a day of exercise.
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A Fitness Club Pioneer
Jack LaLanne was the first to open a health club in 1936, which was a game-changer for the fitness industry. His facility featured workout machines and areas for various types of exercises and aerobics. He was a firm advocate of an all-rounded approach to fitness. He didn’t believe in building a beach body at the expense of overall health, which is why he stressed wholesome, balanced meals, and exercise regimens that targeted all parts of the body.
One of the things that made him controversial yet highly popular was that he didn’t just promote fitness and bodybuilding to young men. No, he wanted all of America to move more. He promoted exercise and a healthy lifestyle for all, including women and older people. Jack was a visionary who advocated for nutrition and exercise to combat the effects of aging.
In 1951, Jack’s “The Jack LaLanne Show” made its debut on television – one of the first exercise and health shows on air. He would perform his exercises on the show, which was highly popular among the audience. His charm, charisma, and commitment to fitness made him an instant hit. His promotion of and dedication to basic fitness routines that you could do from the comfort of your own home made him a hit with housewives and older people, who were previously ignored by the fitness industry. On his show, he often had women and older people on set doing the exercises with him, showing the country that exercise was capable for anyone at any age.
Age Is Just A Number
“I never think of my age, never. I could be 20 or 100. I never think about it. I’m just me.”
Jack was famous for never letting his age defy him. At age 47, Jack swam across the Golden Gate Channel, towing a 2,500-pound cabin behind him. At 60, he swam, handcuffed, from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf. On his 70th birthday, he towed 70-row boats for the mile-long swim from Long Beach Harbor to the Queensway Bridge. This was a man who truly practiced what he preached.
Jack Promoted Proper Nutrition
Jack LaLanne was also a nutritional entrepreneur. He produced and marketed many health supplements, including the famous “Power Juicer,” a home juicing machine that he believed could help people live longer and healthier lives by getting the necessary nutrients from regular fruit and vegetable juices. Even his fitness clubs featured a juice bar, where members were encouraged to have a vegetable juice of their choice after their workouts.
Through his personal accomplishments and persistence, Jack inspired and motivated millions of people worldwide to live healthier lives. His commitment to health did not go unnoticed, and he received many awards throughout his life, including the Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award. President Eisenhower would refer to Jack LaLanne as the “Godfather of Fitness.” (3)
A Long Life and A Lasting Legacy
Lalanne’s death on January 23, 2011, at the age of 96, was a blow to the fitness industry. The world lost an iconic figure, whose dedication to promoting health and wellness has touched generations. Despite his passing, his legacy is still living on. His famous quote, “The only way you can hurt the body is not use it,” is as relevant today as it was when he first uttered it. His wife, Elaine, now 96 herself, has continued her husband’s legacy.
“After Jack passed, I wanted to continue inspiring and motivating people at any age. I’m 96 going on 97, and I still work out every day. I have a formula for staying fit and healthy, and it’s called ARCH. A for attitude. A positive attitude, you get stuff done. A negative attitude, you don’t get anything done. R for resistance…C for consistency, and the H from your ARCH would be harmony. So if you have all these things, it equals harmony,” she said. (4)
Jack LaLanne has been an inspiration to many people interested in fitness and has helped create a multi-billion-dollar fitness industry. With his passion for health, relentless work ethic, and efforts to promote exercise, Jack is still referred to as the “Grandfather of Fitness.” He has left an enduring legacy that has changed countless lives for the better, and will forever be remembered as the personification of health and fitness.
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- “Jack LaLanne.” Britannica. Melissa Albert. August 3, 2023.
- “Jack LaLanne: Founding Father Of Fitness.” NPR. Tom Goldman. January 24, 2011
- “DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER FITNESS AWARD.” ASAMA
- “This 96-Year-Old Still Works Out Every Day—In Memory of Her Husband “The Godfather of Fitness”.” Rachel Ray Show. Rachel Linder. January 26, 2023