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Jack LaLanne

At an early age Jack studied Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body and concentrated on bodybuilding, chiropractic medicine, and weightlifting, which was unheard of in the 1930s.  Jack Lalane appeared on the cover of Strength & Health Magazine and opened his own health spa. in 1936 at the age of 22. 


His fitness spa included a gym, juice bar and health food store — in an old office building in Oakland, CA.  He designed the world's first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables, and weight selectors, a standard in the fitness industry.  “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” But he persevered, and he found a national outlet in the age of television. 

“The Jack LaLanne Show” made its debut in 1951 as a local program in the San Francisco area, then went nationwide on daytime television in 1959.  Jack was not a large man – weighed 170 pounds and stood 5 feet 7 inches.  He wore a short-sleeved jumpsuit showing off his impressive biceps, and his props were limited to a broomstick, a chair and a rubber cord.  Jack pranced through his exercise routines, most notably his fingertip push-ups.  He built an audience by first drawing in children who saw his white German shepherd, Happy, perform tricks.  “My show was so personal, I made it feel like you and I were the only ones there,” he told Knight-Ridder Newspapers in 1995. “And I’d say: ‘Boys and girls, come here. Uncle Jack wants to tell you something. You go get Mother or Daddy, Grandmother, Grandfather, whoever is in the house. You go get them, and you make sure they exercise with me.’ ”  His show continued into the mid-1980s. 


Long before Arnold, Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda and the Atkins diet, LaLanne was a national celebrity, preaching regular exercise and proper diet.  Capitalizing on his television popularity, he opened dozens of fitness studios under his name, marketed a Power Juicer to blend raw vegetables and fruits and a Glamour Stretcher cord, and sold exercise videos and fitness books. He invited women to join his health clubs and told the elderly and the disabled that they could exercise despite their limitations. 

At 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. At 70, handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, carrying a total of 70 people, a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor. 

Jack was a sensible eater who ate fish daily and added a lean steak a few times a week, but fresh fruits and vegetables was key for him.  He ate balanced meals avoiding all fats, starches, rich desserts, and fried foods.

Jack Lalanne was 96 when he died in 2011 and was still working out including the day before he died.  He received numerous awards and honors during his life and was a founding member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness under President Kennedy. 

Reseacher:  Bernie Tesmer NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Black Belt Mixed Martial Arts

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