Jack LaLanne: American author, fitness trainer and businessman (1914 - 2011) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Jack LaLanne
American author, fitness trainer and businessman

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American author, fitness trainer and businessman
A.K.A. Francois Henri LaLanne, Francois LaLanne, Jack Lalanne, Francois Lalan...
Was Physician Nutritionist Author Businessperson Inventor Chiropractor
From United States of America
Field Business Healthcare Literature
Gender male
Birth 26 September 1914, San Francisco
Death 23 January 2011, Morro Bay (aged 96 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Francois Henri “Jack” LaLanne (pronounced /lə'leɪn/ "luh-layn" French /lalan/ "lah-lahn") (26 September 1914 – 23 January 2011) was an American fitness, exercise, and nutritional expert and motivational speaker who is sometimes called "the godfather of fitness" and the "first fitness superhero." He described himself as being a "sugarholic" and a "junk food junkie" until he was age 15. He also had behavioral problems, but "turned his life around" after listening to a public lecture about the benefits of good nutrition by health food pioneer Paul Bragg. During his career, he came to believe that the country's overall health depended on the health of its population, writing that "physical culture and nutrition—is the salvation of America."
Decades before health and fitness began being promoted by celebrities like Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons, LaLanne was already widely recognized for publicly preaching the health benefits of regular exercise and a good diet. He published numerous books on fitness and hosted the fitness television program The Jack LaLanne Show between 1953 and 1985. As early as 1936, at age 21, he opened one of the nation's first fitness gyms in Oakland, California, which became a prototype for dozens of similar gyms using his name. One of his 1950s television exercise programs was aimed toward women, whom he also encouraged to join his health clubs. He invented a number of exercise machines, including leg-extension and pulley devices. Besides producing his own series of videos, he coached the elderly and disabled to not forgo exercise, believing it would enable them to enhance their strength.
LaLanne also gained recognition for his success as a bodybuilder, as well as for his prodigious feats of strength. Arnold Schwarzenegger once exclaimed "That Jack LaLanne's an animal!" after a 54-year-old LaLanne beat then 21-year-old Schwarzenegger badly in an informal contest. On the occasion of LaLanne's death, Schwarzenegger credited LaLanne for being "an apostle for fitness" by inspiring "billions all over the world to live healthier lives," and, as governor of California, had earlier placed him on his Governor's Council on Physical Fitness. Steve Reeves credited LaLanne as his inspiration to build his muscular physique while keeping a slim waist.
LaLanne was inducted to the California Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Born in San Francisco, California, LaLanne's parents were Jennie (née Garaig) (1882–1973) and Jean/John LaLanne (1881–1939), immigrants from Oloron-Sainte-Marie in southwest France. Both entered the U.S. in the 1880s as young children at the Port of New Orleans in Louisiana. LaLanne had two older brothers, Ervil, who died in childhood (1906–1911), and Norman (1908–2005), who nicknamed him "Jack." He grew up in Bakersfield and later moved with his family to Berkeley, circa 1928. His father died at the age of 58 in a San Francisco hospital, which Jack attributed to "Coronary thrombosis and cirrhosis of the liver." in his book "The Jack LaLanne Way To Vibrant Health" (p. 21, 1960 edition) LaLanne wrote that as a boy he was addicted to sugar and junk food. He had violent episodes directed against himself and others, describing himself as "a miserable goddamn kid...it was like hell." Besides having a bad temper, he also suffered from headaches and bulimia, and temporarily dropped out of high school at age 14. The following year, at age 15, he heard health food pioneer Paul Bragg give a talk on health and nutrition, focusing on the "evils of meat and sugar."

Bragg's message had a powerful influence on LaLanne, who then changed his life and started focusing on his diet and exercise. In his own words, he was "born again," and besides his new focus on nutrition, he began working out daily (although earlier, while serving during WWII as a Pharmacist Mate First Class at the Sun Valley Naval Convalescent Hospital, LaLanne stated that he started in bodybuilding at "age 13"---"On The Sports Front", Twin Falls (Idaho) Times News, February 25, 1944, George F. Redmond, sportswriter). Describing his change of diet, LaLanne stated:

I had to take my lunch alone to the football field to eat so no one would see me eat my raw veggies, whole bread, raisins and nuts. You don't know the crap I went through.

Writer Hal Reynolds, who interviewed LaLanne in 2008, notes that he became an avid swimmer and trained with weights, and describes his introduction to weight lifting:

He found two men working out in a back room, who kept weights in a locked box. When he asked them if he could use their weights, they laughed at him and said, "Kid, you can't even lift those weights." So he challenged them both to a wrestling match with the bet that if he could beat them, they would give him a key to the box. After he beat them both, they gave him a key and he used their weights until he was able to buy his own.

He went back to school, where he made the high school football team, and later went on to college in San Francisco where he earned a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. He studied Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body and concentrated on bodybuilding and weightlifting.

Fitness career

Health clubs

In 1936, he opened the nation's first health and fitness club in Oakland, California, where he offered supervised weight and exercise training and gave nutritional advice. His primary goal was to encourage and motivate his clients to improve their overall health. Doctors, however, advised their patients to stay away from his health club, a business totally unheard of at the time, and warned their patients that "LaLanne was an exercise 'nut,' whose programs would make them 'muscle-bound' and cause severe medical problems." LaLanne recalls the initial reaction of doctors to his promotion of weight-lifting:

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

LaLanne designed the first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables, and the weight selectors that are now standard in the fitness industry. He invented the original model of what became the Smith machine. LaLanne encouraged women to lift weights (though at the time it was thought this would make women look masculine and unattractive). By the 1980s, Jack LaLanne's European Health Spas numbered more than 200. He eventually licensed all his health clubs to the Bally company, now known as Bally Total Fitness. Though not associated with any gym, LaLanne continued to lift weights until his death.

LaLanne's gym ownership led to a brief professional wrestling career in 1938. Wrestlers were among the few athletes who embraced weight training, and they frequented his health club. LaLanne wrestled in the Bay Area for only a few months. He was well respected enough that he was booked to wrestle to a draw against some big name opponents rather than lose, despite his lack of experience. According to Ad Santel's grandson David Ad Santel the story is that Jack LaLanne wanted to be champion from the get go but did not have the wrestling skills to be champion. LaLanne was also friendly with such performers as Lou Thesz and Strangler Lewis.

Books, television and other media

Jack LaLanne in 1961

LaLanne presented fitness and exercise advice on television for 34 years. The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest-running television exercise program. According to the SF Chronicle TV program archives, it first began on 28 September 1953 as a 15-minute local morning program (sandwiched between the morning news and a cooking show) on San Francisco's ABC television station, KGO-TV, with LaLanne paying for the airtime himself as a way to promote his gym and related health products. LaLanne also met his wife Elaine while she was working for the local station. In 1959, the ABC network picked up the show for nationwide broadcast, which continued until 1985.

The show was noted for its minimalist set, where LaLanne inspired his viewers to use basic home objects, such as a chair, to perform their exercises along with him. Wearing his standard jumpsuit, he urged his audience "with the enthusiasm of an evangelist," to get off their couch and copy his basic movements, a manner considered the forerunner of today's fitness videos.:watch In 1959, LaLanne recorded Glamour Stretcher Time, a workout album which provided phonograph-based instruction for exercising with an elastic cord called the Glamour Stretcher. As a daytime show, much of LaLanne's audience were stay-at-home mothers. Wife Elaine LaLanne was part of the show to demonstrate the exercises, as well as the fact that doing them would not ruin their figures or musculature. LaLanne also included his dog Happy as a way to attract children to the show. Later in the run, another dog named Walter was used, with LaLanne claiming "Walter" stood for "We All Love To Exercise Regularly."

LaLanne published several books and videos on fitness and nutrition, appeared in movies, and recorded a song with Connie Haines. He marketed exercise equipment, a range of vitamin supplements, and two models of electric juicers. These include the "Juice Tiger", as seen on Amazing Discoveries with Mike Levey, and "Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer". It was on the show that LaLanne introduced the phrase "That's the power of the juice!" However, in March 1996, 70,000 Juice Tiger juicers, 9% of its models, were recalled after 14 injury incidents were reported. The Power Juicer is still sold in five models.

LaLanne celebrated his 95th birthday with the release of a new book titled, Live Young Forever.

In the book, he discussed how he maintained his health and activeness well into his advanced age.

Personal health routine


LaLanne blamed overly processed foods for many health problems. For most of his life, he advocated primarily a meat and vegetable diet; eating meat three times per day with eggs and fruit in the morning and many servings of vegetables in the afternoon and evening. For six years he was a vegetarian. In his later years, he appeared to advocate a mostly meatless diet but which included fish (see pescetarianism), and took vitamin supplements.

In his television programs, he recommended the following meal plan; Breakfast: fruit, eggs and/or meat, and whole wheat toast, Lunch: Large salad, and meat/fish, Dinner: Large salad, two vegetables, meat/fowl, and fruit.

He ate two meals a day and avoided snacks. His breakfast, after working out for two hours, consisted of hard-boiled egg whites, a cup of broth, oatmeal with soy milk and seasonal fruit. For dinner, he and his wife typically ate raw vegetables and egg whites along with fish. He did not drink coffee.

LaLanne said his two simple rules of nutrition are: "if man made it, don't eat it", and "if it tastes good, spit it out." He offered his opinion of the average person's diet:

Look at the average American diet: ice cream, butter, cheese, whole milk, all this fat. People don't realize how much of this stuff you get by the end of the day. High blood pressure is from all this high-fat eating. Do you know how many calories are in butter and cheese and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning for a cup of coffee and a donut? Probably millions of Americans got up this morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a donut. No wonder they are sick and fouled up.


When exercising, he worked out repetitively with weights until he experienced "muscle fatigue" in whatever muscle groups he was exercising, or when it became impossible for him to go on with a particular routine. "Training to failure" is now commonplace. LaLanne moved from exercise to exercise without stopping. To contradict critics who thought this would leave him tightly musclebound and uncoordinated, LaLanne liked to demonstrate one-handed balancing. His home contained two gyms and a pool which he used daily. He also dismissed warmups, calling them "shtick" and "something else to sell": "15 minutes to warm up? Does a lion warm up when he's hungry? 'Uh oh, here comes an antelope. Better warm up.' No! He just goes out there and eats the sucker."

LaLanne receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 at Muscle Beach in Venice Beach, California

He continued with his two-hour workouts into his 90s, which also included walking.

He often said, "I'd hate to die; it would ruin my image." Similarly, he stated, "If I died, people would say 'Oh look, Jack LaLanne died. He didn't practice what he preached.'" When asked about sex, LaLanne had a standard joke, saying that despite their advanced age, he and his wife still made love almost every night: "Almost on Monday, almost on Tuesday, almost on Wednesday..." He explained his reasons for exercising:

I train like I'm training for the Olympics or for a Mr. America contest, the way I've always trained my whole life. You see, life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest. How many healthy people do you know? How many happy people do you know? Think about it. People work at dying, they don't work at living. My workout is my obligation to life. It's my tranquilizer. It's part of the way I tell the truth‍—‌and telling the truth is what's kept me going all these years.

He also added "I know so many people in their 80s who have Alzheimer's or are in a wheelchair or whatever. And I say to myself 'I don't want to live like that. I don't want to be a burden on my family. I need to live life. And I'd hate dying; it would ruin my image.'"

LaLanne summed up his philosophy about good nutrition and exercise:

Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It's like an athletic event. You've got to train for it. You've got to eat right. You've got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they're the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.

Views on food additives and drugs

LaLanne often stressed that artificial food additives, drugs, and processed foods contributed to making people mentally and physically ill. As a result, he writes, many people turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with symptoms of ailments, noting that "a stream of aches and pains seems to encompass us as we get older.":114 He refers to the human bloodstream as a "River of Life", which is "polluted" by "junk foods" loaded with "preservatives, salt, sugar, and artificial flavorings".:167

Relying on evidence from The President's Council on Physical Fitness, he also agrees that "many of our aches and pains come from lack of physical activity." As an immediate remedy for symptoms such as constipation, insomnia, tiredness, anxiety, shortness of breath, or high blood pressure, LaLanne states that people will resort to various drugs: "We look for crutches such as sleeping pills, pep pills, alcohol, cigarettes, and so on."


LaLanne was married to Elaine Doyle LaLanne for over 50 years. They had three children: one from his first marriage (Yvonne LaLanne), one from Elaine's first marriage (Dan Doyle), and one together (Jon LaLanne). Yvonne is a chiropractor in California; Dan and Jon are involved in the family business, BeFit Enterprises, which they and their mother and sister plan to continue. Another daughter from Elaine's first marriage, Janet Doyle, died in 1974 at age 21 in a car accident.


LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia at his home on 23 January 2011. He was 96. According to his family, he had been sick for a week, but refused to see a doctor. They added that he had been performing his daily workout routine the day before his death. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.

Timeline: LaLanne's feats

(As reported on Jack LaLanne's website) These accounts are not necessarily entirely accurate descriptions of what LaLanne actually did. See the 1974 Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf swim (below) for an illustration of the difference between the website account and objective reporting of the same event.

  • 1954 (age 40) – swam the entire 8,981-foot (1.7 mi; 2.7 km) length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, under water, with 140 lb (64 kg; 10 st) of air tanks and other equipment strapped to his body; a world record.
  • 1955 (age 41) – swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterwards he was quoted as saying that the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which significantly reduced his chance to do a jumping jack.
  • 1956 (age 42) – set what was claimed as a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on You Asked For It, a television program hosted by Art Baker.
  • 1957 (age 43) – swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500 lb (1,130 kg; 180 st) cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile (1.6 km) swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km).
  • 1958 (age 44) – maneuvered a paddleboard nonstop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore. The 30-mile (48 km) trip took 9.5 hours.
  • 1959 (age 45) – did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes, to promote The Jack LaLanne Show going nationwide. LaLanne said this was the most difficult of his stunts, but only because the skin on his hands started ripping off during the chin-ups. He felt he couldn't stop because it would be seen as a public failure.
  • 1974 (age 60) – For the second time, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. Again, he was handcuffed, but this time he was also shackled and towed a 1,000 lb (450 kg; 71 st) boat. At least that's according to his website. However, according to an account of this event published the day after it occurred in the Los Angeles Times, written by Philip Hager, a Times staff writer, LaLanne was neither handcuffed nor shackled if each of those terms has the conventional meaning of "tightly binding the wrists or ankles together with a pair of metal fasteners". Hager says that LaLanne "had his hands and feet bound with cords that allowed minimal freedom". But "minimal" clearly did not mean "no" freedom, since elsewhere in the article Hager describes LaLanne's method of propulsion through the water as "half-breast-stroke, half-dog paddle" which is how you swim with your hands tied.
  • 1975 (age 61) – Repeating his performance of 21 years earlier, he again swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater and handcuffed, but this time he was shackled and towed a 1,000 lb (450 kg; 71 st) boat.
  • 1976 (age 62) – To commemorate the "Spirit of '76", United States Bicentennial, he swam one mile (1.6 km) in Long Beach Harbor. He was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.
  • 1979 (age 65) – towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 lb (2,950 kg; 460 st) of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.
  • 1980 (age 66) – towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile (1.6 km) in less than one hour.
  • 1984 (age 70) – handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents, he towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen's Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile.

Awards and honors

On 10 June 2005, then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. In his address, Schwarzenegger paid special tribute to LaLanne, who he credited with demonstrating the benefits of fitness and a healthy lifestyle for 75 years. In 2008, he inducted LaLanne into the California Hall of Fame and personally gave him an inscribed plaque at a special ceremony.

In 2007, LaLanne was awarded The President's Council's Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is given to "individuals whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement or promotion of physical activity, fitness, or sports nationwide." Winners are chosen based on the "individual's career, the estimated number of lives the individual has touched through his or her work, the legacy of the individual's work, and additional awards or honors received over the course of his or her career."

Other honors

  • 1963: Founding member of President's Council on Physical Fitness under President Kennedy
  • President's Council of Physical Fitness Silver Anniversary Award
  • Governor's Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award
  • The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans
  • American Academy of Achievement
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • American Medical Association
  • WBBG Pioneer of Fitness Hall of Fame
  • APFC Pioneer of Fitness Hall of Fame
  • Patriarch Society of Chiropractors
  • NFLA – Healthy American Fitness Award
  • Received an Award from the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation Hall of Fame
  • Received National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Gold Circle Award commemorating over 50 years in the Television Industry
  • IHRSA Person of the Year Award
  • Jack Webb Award from the Los Angeles Police Historical Society
  • Interglobal's International Infomercial Award
  • The Freddie, Medical Media Public Service Award
  • Freedom Forum Al Neuharth Free Spirit Honoree
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from Club Industry
  • 1992 (age 78): The Academy of Body Building and Fitness Award
  • 1994 (age 80): The State of California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 1996 (age 82): The Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award
  • 1999 (age 85): The Spirit of Muscle Beach Award
  • 2002 (age 88): A star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. At his induction ceremony, LaLanne did push ups on the top of his star.
  • 2005 (age 91): The Jack Webb Award from the Los Angeles Police Department Historical Society; the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award; the Interglobal's International Infomercial Award; the Freddie Award; the Medical Media Public Service Award; Free Spirit honoree at Al Neuharth's Freedom Forum; Inaugural Inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame
  • 2008 (age 94): Inducted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (fellow 2005 inductee of the National Fitness Hall of Fame) and Maria Shriver into the California Hall of Fame



LaLanne appeared as himself in the following films and television shows:

  • You Bet Your Life, (1957)
  • Peter Gunn, (1960) LaLanne appeared in an episode with Craig Stevens.
  • The Addams Family (Season 2, 1966), episode "Fester Goes on a Diet"
  • Batman (man on roof with girls, uncredited cameo) (1966)
  • Fit & Fun Time (kids TV pilot) (1972)
  • The Year Without Santa Claus (1974) Hercules
  • Repossessed (1990)
  • Amazing Discoveries (1991)
  • The Simpsons (Season 10, 1999), episode "The Old Man and the C Student".
  • Beefcake (1999)
  • Hollywood's Magical Island: Catalina (2003)
  • "Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends Revealed" (2004)
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (Season 2, 2004)

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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