Birthday: September 26, 1914
Died At Age: 96
Sun Sign: Libra
Born in: San Francisco, California, USA
Famous as: Fitness & Nutrition Expert
Spouse/Ex-: Elaine LaLanne (m. 1959–2011) Irma Navarre
father: Jean/John LaLanne
mother: Jennie (née Garaig)
siblings: Ervil LaLanne, Norman LaLanne
children: Daniel LaLanne, Janet LaLanne, Jon LaLanne, Yvonne LaLanne
Died on: January 23, 2011
place of death: Morro Bay, California, USA
U.S. State: California
City: San Francisco, California
Francois Henri LaLanne, better known as Jack LaLanne, was an American chiropractor, body builder, and nutritional expert nicknamed as “the godfather of Fitness”. He began his career in health and fitness long before such concepts had become fashionable. As a youngster, LaLanne had a sugar addiction and was a self-proclaimed “junk food junkie”. His personal journey towards health and fitness began when he first listened to a public lecture by Paul Bragg, a famous nutrition speaker. He was so motivated by the lecture that he opened one of the nation’s first fitness gyms in California when he was just 21. He himself became a body builder and designed a number of exercise machines. He publicly preached the health benefits of regular exercise and nutritional diet, and published several books on fitness. He produced his own series of exercise videos and hosted a fitness show on television. He encouraged every section of the society—women, children, elderly, and disabled—to maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly. Lalanne practiced what he preached and maintained an excellent physique. Famous as a motivational speaker, television host and an author, he was in demand as a celebrity endorser for various health products like gym equipment and vitamin supplements. He maintained a healthy lifestyle throughout his life and died at the ripe age of 96.
Childhood & Early Life
Jack LaLanne was born in California to Jennie and Jean LaLanne as their third son. His parents were immigrants from France. His mother worked as a maid and his father was a dance instructor.
As a boy he was addicted to sugar and junk food. He had a bad temper and also suffered from various health problems like bulimia and headaches. He dropped out of school at 14.
At the age of 15 he attended a lecture by nutritionist Paul Bragg which had a dramatic effect on the young Jack who was motivated to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Inspired by Bragg, he not only began to eat healthier, but also started exercising and went back to school where he played in the high school football team.
He later went on to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from San Francisco.
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He began a career in fitness training by opening the country’s first health and fitness club in California in 1936. He supervised his clients’ exercise training and gave nutrition advice.
His health club was however met with skepticism from doctors who were against this innovative concept. Undaunted, LaLanne continued motivating people to improve their overall health through exercise and proper diets.
He also designed several exercise equipment, including the original model on which the Smith exercise machine is based. He is the pioneer who developed the first leg extension machines and pulley machines which later on became the standard in the fitness industry.
LaLanne motivated all the sections of society including women, elderly and disabled to live a physically active life. He encouraged women to lift weights—an advice that was initially frowned upon—but later on became popular.
More and more people were beginning to realize the health benefits of exercise and by the 1980s, LaLanne operated more than 200 health spas all over the country.
In 1938, he tried his hand at a professional wrestling career but wrestled for only a few months.
His reputation as a fitness trainer led him to launch his own fitness show, ‘The Jack LaLanne Show’ in 1951 which was the first ever show of its kind. The show ran for a record 34 years.
On the show, LaLanne inspired his viewers to exercise with him, using basic home objects like chairs and tables. At that time, a majority of the common people were not aware about the dangers of junk food or the benefits of exercise. It was he who first introduced Americans to these concepts.
In the 1950’s, there was a misconception that exercise made women unattractive and was therefore bad for them. In order to break this myth, he featured his wife Elaine in his show to demonstrate to women that exercise was good for them too. He also featured two dogs, Happy and Walter, to attract children.
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He wrote several books and made numerous videos on fitness and nutrition. His fame made him a popular choice for endorsing health products like exercise equipment and vitamin supplements.
He opened a health and fitness center in 1936 when such a concept was practically unheard of. He was a pioneer in the field of health and fitness who believed in what he was doing in spite of the initial criticism of his work.
He hosted the world’s first ever televised fitness show, ‘The Jack LaLanne Show’ in 1951 which ran for 34 years. He holds the credit for inspiring millions of Americans to ditch their sedentary lifestyle and move towards a healthier and more fulfilling life.
Awards & Achievements
The President’s Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to him in 2007. The award is given to "individuals whose careers have greatly contributed to the advancement or promotion of physical activity, fitness, or sports nationwide."
In 2008, he was inducted to the California Hall of Fame which honours individuals and families who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.
Personal Life & Legacy
LaLanne’s first marriage to Irma Navarre, whom he married in 1942 ended in divorce in 1948. They had one daughter.
He married Elaine Doyle, a television show presenter, in 1959 and remained happily married till his death. Doyle had one son from a previous marriage and the couple had one son together.
He died in 2011 at the age of 96 from respiratory failure. His family said that he had been working out till the day before his death.
One of his most famous quotes was: "I'd hate to die; it would ruin my image."
He did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes in 1959 to promote his fitness show going nationwide.
At the age of 54, he defeated a 21-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger in an informal contest.
He towed 10 boats in North Miami, filled with 77 people for over a mile in less than 1 hour when he was aged 66.