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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well i am from england and i have lived in germany now for 15 years so we dont see him much on tv but i use his juicer every childrens favorite juice in it is carrot and apple. Report
I remember watching Jack as a small child. I think he came on TV right before Romper Room. What a combo: Jack LaLanne and Miss Nancy! LOL. Jack always served as a role model of fitness and health for me. That he lived to be 96 and was mentally alert and active the whole time is a testament to the principles he lived by. Report
I remember my mom and me exercising with Jack LaLanne when I was 3 or 4. Her and I would do sit ups together. I would watch him every day I could. Back then I thought exercise was fun! Report
Indirectly, he had an impact upon my life. Like some have mentioned above, my Mother also used to get in front of the TV and do those exercises with Jack each day, and I even tried to do some of them as well as a small child. His life was a testimony to what persistence and discipline can achieve. Report
I was so sad to hear of his passing, and he was truly an inspiration to me. I wish I'd paid more attention to his message back when I was a kid; I wouldn't have gotten into this physical mess that I've found myself in as a mature adult. I am, however, taking his words to heart NOW, and that's what counts. Thank you, Coach Dean, for reminding me again of what an awesome man Jack LaLanne truly was. May his legacy live on! Report
Jack was a friend of my grandfathers in the 1950s.When I was little,I remember seeing pictures of my grandfather Joe in a muscle magazine.The first picture was a fat Italian man sitting on a bank fishing,The next page showed the grandpa I recognized: All muscle at full pose.My grandfather won numerous trophy's and titles as a muscle builder.When my grandpa passed away at age 85,he was still an imposing figure of a man;all muscle!
My grandfather died of an un detected heart defect,his doctor said he lived as long as he did due to the healthy diet and exercise.
I have Jack lelanne to thank for being able to grow up with my grandpa. God Bless him and his family
I grew up with Mr. Lalanne. My Mom would watch with me right by her side. He seemed so involved with life. We should all be so very lucky. My best to his family. Report
Loved him! He was a decent guy and a wonderful inspiration. My condolences to his family. Report
I only saw re-runs of his show later in life. However I was always amazed at how many bodybuilders and fitness celebrities paid tribute to him. He truly will be missed especially in the fitness world. His philosophy that we don't need special machines, gimmicks or fad diets to achieve good health will hopefully live on. Report
Not only was he a man to be admired for his work in health and fittness...but he was also a man of faith, which he shared openly on his show. He definately was one of a kind who will live on by the people who he inspired. Report
My brother & I used to get up early to watch Jack LaLanne, we loved his white german sheppard. What an amazing man, we were lucky to have him for as long as we did. Thank you Jack LaLanne! Report
What a life he has had. I remember being a chubby kid and he was the only exercise person with a show that I could find. I would at least try and do what he did. Can't say I listened at the time. But being older now I have come to appreciate what he was doing. He will be missed and always know by me as the father of exercise. Hugs and prayers to his family. Report
When I was a kid, I watched reruns of Jack's fitness show. It was great. You didn't a Nautilus machine, Bow Flex, Shake Weight, HRM, Body Bugg, etc... to be fit. All you needed was a chair.

I recently started watching some clips of his old show on YOUTUBE. I have to say, Jack really was way a head of his time. He spoke against eating excess refined sugar. He advocated eating a raw leafy green salad every day. He talked about reducing your stress. All of this he did over 60 years ago.

Jack was amazing. He's always been a fitness inspiration of mine. I hope that I will continue to strength train well into my 90s ! Report
I remember watching him when I was a little girl on that black and white tv. Report
I grew up watching Jack, on a round black & white TV screen, & watching my mom & one of my aunts workout with him.
HE is now up in Heaven keeping them all fit !!
RIP Jack, you will be missed! Report
I grew up exercising with Jack and my mom- fostering a lifetime of love of exercise! Report
What I really liked about him was that you didn't need special equipment to do the exercises. He was a great guy and a wonderful teacher and example. Report
When I was in high school, his show came on at like 4 in the morning, I would get up early just to exercise with him.
This was my first introduction to tv exercise shows.
He was an inspiration and we should be so lucky to find someone like him again. Report
I remember those early shows too - the dogs were beautiful. He used very simple exercises, clearly presented, with stuff you had at home.. I wish I had appreciated him more then - I might not have gotten myself into the shape that brought me to the Spark! Report
I was sad when Jack died. He was an important part of my life. My earliest childhood memories are exercising with Jack and mom every morning. The best shows were when Happy was on the set. It was boring when he sat down to talk. I was excited to start school until I realized it meant missing Jack (no VCRs in the 50s!). He remained an important part of my school breaks. Im sure that early experience is why I never minded exercising, although I didnt follow his nutrition advice. About ten years ago, his reruns were on ESPN. I planned my morning to exercise with my old friend. The talks were no longer boring. His nutrition information was the same as current guidelines. Exercising keeps muscles in shape at any age. The most important thing he taught me was never give up healthy eating and exercise. Some people live to age 96, but few with the high quality of life he had. I hope my efforts do the same for me. Report
Jack was the perfect example of someone to admire.
In youth we all knew who he was and looked up to him.
I wish there were more famous proponents of good healthy living.
Instead the heroes seem to be athletes and sports figures that spend time avoiding jail and in rehab.

We were a lot better off with Jack. Report
RIP Jack LaLanne.


I saw him recently on a talk show but can't remember which one, he looked amazing and brought back memories of all of my three sisters and I working out with our mom in front of our black and white TV to Jack LaLanne. He stayed true to his health and fitness convictions and this should be a time to honor his memory by following his life plan.

Wait, that is SparkPeople.......

We are following in his footsteps and living a healthy, active, balanced, lifestyle!

Now the secret will be to do it with his dedication and conviction.......

Then we will all be winners!!

Truly an inspiration. Report
This was a very informative blog. I grew up in the time when his name was a household name and he made an impact on physical fitness. His simple and effective approach was and in my opinion a great one. The problem with programs these days especially for a person who has never really execised or have alot of weight to lose is that they are too hard "boot camp" approach just does not work and cause easy discouragement. I'm going to adopt the Mantra of Jack "Exersise is King , nutrtion is Queen put them togetter and you got a kingdom." Words to live by on my journey. Thanks. Report
I remember well watching him in the fiifties. I will always remember something he said..."The only way you can hurt your body is if you don't use it". Report
I'm too young to have watched his show, but I started my exercise program with Denise Austin, who worked with him on his show and shared her admiration for him in her books, shows and videos. He gave her her start! I've seen and read about him off and on through-out the past 13 years, and I also admired him for his can-do attitude and love of fitness.
In one interview with CBN, it hit a chord with me when he talked of having aches and pains associated with getting older - but he never let that stop him from exercising. It hit me because so many people make excuses to not workout, and he basically was saying there just is NO excuse! I love that attitude! Report
Jack La Lanne was a wonderful support in my family. Daily, we worked out with him and always looked forward to the show. I still use many of his exercises. He was down to earth, honest, and passionate. I will miss him. Report
I remember Jack and started watching him with my mom when we got our first TV set . I too, remember those two white german shepards. RIP jack.. we loved you! Report
I used to get my kids to school then rush home to exercise with Jack & Debbie Drake who also had an exercise tv program. This was back in the early 1960s.
I still prefer calisthenics and I am the most flexible perspm that I know, now at the age of 76. Jack was the best! Report
I remember in the late 50s watching my mom work out with Jack. He is truly the 'Father of Fitness'. He encouraged people to be healthier before it was a mainstream idea. Another plus was that he 'practiced what he preached'! Definately loved the idea of optimal health himself.

Rest in Peace, Jack and prayers go out to his lovely wife and the rest of his family. Report
Yes, I remember exercising in front of our black and white tv in the 60's with my mom. I remember giggling as we did our different poses, and mom saying she just wanted to be half as healthy as him when she got to be his age. She is in her 70's now and still very active.

We all play our wii games on big, flat-screen color tv's now, but Jack was the pioneer who boldly led the way to a healthy use of the new technology that came into our homes all those years ago.

I own the juicer, and every time I hear someone say carrot juice is a bad idea (too many condensed calories, devoid of fiber), I just think of how great it makes me feel when I drink it, and how healthy he was!

I also come from a line of longevity, and the thought that unhealthy living may not shorten my life is what concerns me most. Who wants to be old AND unhealthy! Jack showed us it is possible to maintain great health and he showed us how to do it. Report
I vividly remember him on black and white tv and that he was encouraging women, especially to work out....Long before it was widely excepted....(My mother-in-law's mantra was 'women don't sweat'!) Report
I remember watching him back in 1970 when I was just 6 years old my grandfather use to watch him on his black and white tv. Report
Jack inspired my mother. I remember watching her exercise with him on the black and white TV. My mom inspired me. Report
I wasn't in Kindergarten yet when I watched Jack with my mother back in the early 70's. We did the exercises with him. It wasn't long after that that Richard Simmons turned up on General Hospital. =) Report
My generation doesn't really know him, but we owe him a lot!! He made fitness mainstream, challenged North Americans and led by example.

He led a wonderful life and I'm sure he died content. Report
I never knew who he was, but I own his juicer, thanks to a dear friend! Report
RIP, Mr. LaLanne, You were an inspiration to many! Report
Jack made fitness doable for most anyone. His shows always used minimal equiptment, mostly just your own body, maybe resistance from a partner, and ordinary stuff everyone has at home - a straight back chair, a broom handle. His annual stunts were truly spectacular. Only in the last few years did his physique finally show signs of fading into frailty - he was built like an Oscar til well past 90. I've never been much for callistetics, since with RA, lots of reps & quick bouncing around is not the way to go, but his git up & go was infectious & inspiring. I'll miss him. Report
What I will always remember were his unique, one-arm, fingertip push-ups. My dad could do one-arm push-ups, but not on his fingertips.

Me? I played right-field, when I got to play, for my Little League team.

My lack of coordination came from a bout with polio at a very young age. I was close to 20 before I could be sure I wouldn't be hit in the face by a pop fly. Muscle coordination opened up a whole new world and I loved to rock climb. There was nothing more fun than rappelling down a flat mountain-side. When training in the service, I had my Swiss seat ready to go on rappel before the other trainees even knew what it was.

Jack, as long as a single man or woman is working to improve their health, you will be alive in memories. I salute you. Report
Loved Jack. It would have been the late 60's when I watched him and Hsppy. I don't have his juicer, although mother has always wanted us to get one when we have our own place, but I always enjoyed watching the infomercials. He was so enthusiatic. Report
Mr. LaLanne and Richard Simmons are the only two fitness gurus that I think the world of! I grew up watching their shows. I miss them, and I wish they would bring the shows back! Report
Was a kick reading how everyone remembers his TV show, he did push his "Yammie Yogurt" back in those days. He led a long rich life, and I'd like to share a couple of things about Jack & my family. My grandmother was Catherine Garaig sister to Jack's mom. My dad (the 12th of 13 children) remembered the summer he spent on the family ranch outside of Porterville, CA. He wasn't much of a ranch hand and was a whiney brat. But he was good to his mother and stubbornly lived the way he wanted. Jack owes a lot to great family genes, my dad lived to 95 (he was 5 yrs older) and his siblings all, save the eldest who was in her late 70s, lived to their late 80s and mid-90s. I am hoping that I inherited those good genes!
I haven't seen him in several years, but we always enjoyed getting his Christmas card. There they would all be in exercise gear, Elaine, the kids, and even Hattie their maid wishing everyone a Happy Holiday. Its nice to know that he was really right about eating healthy and getting exercise...a man way ahead of his time. Report
I remember Jack in his prime! what an amazing guy what a wonderful life! Report
I must say that Jack WAS and has been my fitness guru for many years! Not only did he set a perfect example, he also was instrumental in helping me to control and eventually conquer my migraine headaches with simple exercises and breathing techniques. For that alone, I will remain truly grateful!!!!!!!!! My condolences to Elaine and his entire family. I always felt as though they were my old friends and I always loved their visits, via television. He was an American icon and a true FITNESS WARRIOR!!!!!!!
Mary Ann (dremargrl) Report
Everytime I feel too tired to finish a workout, I push my self to finish and get up and do it again the next day. What gets me through it is the image of this amazing man doing pushups into his 90s, while I've let myself go and can't even do one. But I'm determined to get there and I can thank Monsieur LaLanne for the motivation to get there for sure. An amazing man, an amazing life and such a wonderful inspiration. Report
I remember him way back then, what an inspiration he was. Report
Absolutely...Thank you for this. I am deeply saddened by his passing. My
condolences to his wife and family. I remember watching him on tv...He gave me my love of all things fitness. Report
3 of our daughters contacted me when they heard the news. they all remember us all working out together in front of the TV when they were little. he was a blessing to all of us! Report
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