In Memoriam: Jack LaLanne

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Jack LaLanne, founding father of the fitness movement in the United States, died at home on Sunday at the age of 96.

Those of us who were around during the early days of television may remember him best for his syndicated exercise show, which first appeared in 1951 and stayed on the air for 33 years. I don’t remember exactly when I started watching the show, but I do remember being impressed by the two white German shepherds who often shared the stage with Jack.

When I was somewhat older, I also remember being struck with how honest, simple, and direct his message was. He didn’t try to sell you any dubious gadgets, techniques, or diet plans, even though he certainly had the opportunity and the means to do so. He preached a simple diet of natural, whole foods, along with basic strength training and regular physical activity—as he put it on most of his shows: "Exercise is king; nutrition is queen. Put 'em together and you've got a kingdom!"

The other key ingredient in LaLanne’s approach was constantly challenging yourself to do the best you can. And when it came to setting and achieving personal challenges, he truly led by example...

Over the years, he accomplished many amazing feats, like swimming across San Francisco Bay while handcuffed and towing a 1000 pound boat behind him. Or doing over 1000 pushups in 23 minutes. The older he got the more amazing his physical feats became (see this page for a list of the more notable ones), making him a true inspiration to anyone who wants to maintain a high level of health and fitness at every age. More than anyone else, LaLanne was responsible for debunking the idea that turning 40 is the end of the road when it comes to exercise and fitness.

Jack’s wife of 51 years, Elaine, and his three children are planning to keep the LaLanne fitness enterprise going, which includes an exercise program for seniors called Better Balance for Life, and a variety of books and videos (see their website for more info).

The family is planning a funeral service in Los Angeles for the first or second week of February.

Has Jack LaLanne helped inspire your personal health and fitness journey?

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I exercised with Jack LaLanne on a daily basis. He inspired and strengthened my resolve to take care of myself with exercise and healthy eating. There were no gimmicks, just simple exercises that I continue even today within my program. I am grateful for him and his support, honesty, and loyalty to his body and fans. Report
What an inspirational man! One of my favorite memories was doing his work out program on B&W TV, getting disappointed it was interrupted for the MOON LANDING! LOL! I got over it while I watched the news mesmerized by the unfolding events. Report
I was fortunate enough to meet Jack LaLanne & his sweet mother when I was 8 years old at my father's physical fitness exhibition. He has been an inspiration to me for 47 years - thank you, Mr. LaLanne! Our global community has benefited greatly by his example & has suffered a tremendous loss in his passing. Report
I use to see my mother watch him and he inspired me to start juicing. What an awesome life! Report
I watched Jack LaLane since I was a little girl. I'm 56 now, and I miss him. He is a hero! Report
I'm not sure why this show was ever on at my house. No one ever did any exercising to it. But as a very young child, I did love those white German Shepards!

Jack was a fitness icon, before fitness was "cool". He will be missed! Report
He was and inspirational man. Report
I remember the TV Show starring the energetic Jack and his lovely wife, Elaine, very well. what an inspiration to all his life touched. Thanks for sharing your memories and refreshing mine. Report
I have very strong memories of my mother working out with Jack. He was an inspiration to many over the decades and will be missed. He was the first "fitness guru" and made it OK to work out especially in your own home. Report
I remember my mom, sister and I exercising to Jack's show. It was a daily occurence when I was a kid. He truly was a man to admire. He will be greatly missed.

My son was lucky enough to play golf with Jack LaLanne in Santa Maria, CA. And the first gyms I went to on a regular basis were Jack LaLanne gyms in San Diego! A truly wonderful person! Report
I remember exercising along with Jack LaLanne 50 years ago. My overweight Aunt watched and exercised and it seemed like fun. Report
I will Always remember my Jack not only did I exercise at home with him on the black and white TV but I was a memeber of his Spa. and I really enjoyed go there. It was sad when he closed the spa. We all wear our black stretch outfits.. we looked so good in them. Those were the days. Jack thank you !!! Report
I am sad to hear of his passing. He was truly an inspiration! I met Jack and Elaine a couple of years ago at a 50 years and older run where he and Elaine spoke in Sonora CA. He was in such great shape then for his age. I wasn't 50 yet but they let me sign up anyway-I wished I had bought one of his books because he was signing autographs. Now I will never have that chance.
I used to exercise with him on television. No one thought his exercise show would go anywhere and that it was a waste of time-no one will watch it. All the doctors thought he was crazy for thinking that women and children needed to exercise-He sure brought this country and its attitudes about health a long way Report
He was amazing. I thought he would live well past 100 Report
jack lalanne was my first exercise mentor. i exercised with him on tv. i still occasionally do one that i remember. and you are right. he was so honest and non-commercial. so positive and upbeat, too. was it he who said you can't be depressed after a hot-then-cod shower? thanks dean for the memories and manda for the link. Report
I remember clearly how my mom religiously exercised with Jack LaLane. I was three years old and would try to follow mom and Jack. His show was on 5 years before I was born. Today I am inspired by again by him. He changed lives for so many people. Report
Jack is amazing. So inspiring. Enjoy viewing his old shows on YouTube. Report
I remember waking up early in the mornings and getting the chance to watch Jack and his show when I was very young. I cannot recall if I followed along but I am sure he's stuck in my subconscious and might be where I've always gotten the idea I am not in competition with anyone else- I just try to do my own personal best.

What a life filled with inspiration for all to see. Report
I remember my sister and I getting up during summer vacation to exercise with Jack. I always loved the shows when his 2 shepherds were at his side. He was quite an inspiration and an amazing human being! He will be missed by many! Report
He led a truly inspirational life! Report
I remember my mother working out in front of the big black and white TV. He was the best. Report
Jack Had the right ideal about being healthy and exercising all along. He definitely was a true inspiration. Report
I started working out with him when I was very young. Then a few years back they started showing reruns on ESPN Sports Classics. Unfortunately, it wasn't on long. He was the master! RIP Jack! You will be missed! Report
remember Jack LaLanne from when i was a kid my mom would work out with him and i loved it because i got to do it also.. Report
I always admired Jack sooo much. Only wish my parents would have had him on the TV more and maybe I'd have caught the fitness bug at a much younger age!!! R.I.P., Jack. You will be missed!!! Thank you for all you've done and will continue in video's, etc. Report
Thank you for posting this! I knew next to nothing about the man, but was glad to learn. I just thought I'd add this visual of the facts you included.
He was a good example in all aspects of his life and he was truly an inspiration to all. I can't think of anybody that deserves more to have a national holiday to honor him. Report
Yes,Jack La Lanne was an excellent influence/example in showing what healthy living & eating is all about! I remember his show & doing the bicep curls with the soup cans! He made you feel "I can do this!" [just like!]. I wrote a blog in memory of him also. Report
Thank you, Coach Dean for this blog and thank you WOMANFOODGOD for the links. It is wonderful to hear the man who was the leader in American Fitness, and see how his practical approach worked. Report
I remember how much my grandma and mom enjoyed watching him. He kept it all very simple. An inspiration to all. Report
we had one of his juicers--it was pretty amazing--gotta i guess the answer would be yes. his recipes of homemade juices and elixirs were great and made me FEEL great. Report
I remember doing jumping jacks with him. I was a kid but loved his show. Now I've seen him selling his juicer. Sorry to see him go. He lived a long life. Longer than I plan on living. Report
My Mom and all us kids used to exercise with him nearly every day... Report
I also remember seeing him on tv when I was a kid, and yes, on the black and white tv. Very inspirational. He will be missed. Report
I watched his show when I was a kid and exercised with him. What an powerful person! Report
Truly inspirational indeed....RIP and THANK YOU for all you have taught us! Report
I too remember exercising with him on TV and the big white shepherds. He shows us we can do more than we think. Report
RIP... Mr. LaLanne, You were an inspiration to many! Report
I grew up watching Jack LaLanne in the '50's & used my babysitting money to buy a "Stretcher" to do exercise with him. (I read he sold 12 million of them.) It was a simple rubber cord, but it worked for LOTS of exercises that he developed. What I loved most about Jack is that he truly LIVED LIFE each and every day. He never let himself get old and negative, but got up each morning and worked out for two hours. I read he worked out Saturday morning & died on Sunday from Pneumonia. I know he was angry about dying because he still had so much work left to do. RIP, Jack. Report
I can remember my Grandmother doing Jack LaLanne everyday. She lived to be 89 and she could put her hands flat on the floor with straight legs. I am 46 now and can't do it! She was in great shape. I agree with the fact that Jack boosted the basics....obviously it works!! RIP Jack Report
Yep, I exercised in front of the same black and white, with my Mom and my baby sister. I have kept up with him over the years and have always been so amazed at his feats, and realized, that he was doing it so that others would know, it's never too late to start living healthy!!! Report
I just read over his list of achievments.......and I thought I was doing good when I did 2 half marathons at 64! Report
oh wow. I didn't realize he had died. I certainly admired him. I used to watch him, back in the day. My grandma lived to be 103 yrs. and 6 months. A lot of it is good genes. I sure hope I also inherited longevity. A lot of it, might have something to do with living the clean life and getting proper exercise, as well. Report
I remember Jack LaLanne but I am somewhat younger. His ideas were wonderful for weightloss and strength training. My condolensces to his Family. WOW! Age 96, just goes to show you, a part of living a long life. My Mother is now age 89. I wished I could get her to a place for daily exersizing. I think our Government should pay for those things for the Elderly too.
You are missed Jack LaLanne, GBU... & Thank you for so many good years of Healthy living. Report
What an amazing life. What an amazing man. We should all be so lucky to be that healthy and to live that long. I'm sorry to hear of his passing, but he has left an incredible legacy in this country. Report
Yes....Jack has always been inspiring, especially since he emphasized that everyone could exercise at home without special equipment. I am old enough to remember his early broadcasts in black and white, and I do! Although I was a youngster then, as a young adult I was amazed at his fortitude, honesty (especially over all those years) and unspoiled nature.....Hollywood wasn't in his head or heart....just GREAT practical sense. He truly is an American Icon with no match, or copycat. Report
I remember seeing him towing the boat-- he was already elderly, and I was inspired! Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up! I hope he died in his sleep after a day of feeling good and healthy. Report
There are some EXCELLENT videos on YouTube from his days on TV. Several of them are incredibly prescient about the causes of obesity, the kinds of diets we should eat, and so on. One wonders how far we've actually come in the intervening years.

Here is one:

Here is another:

(It starts out in a way different from what you'd expect, but...) Report
I SO remember Jack LaLanne in the 1950s on our black and white zenith TV. I was pretty little, but we seemed to always have it on when he was broadcasting. My mom didn't exercise with him as much as she liked his company and his farewell song. Report