Dead, Francois Henri “Jack” LaLanne on January 23, 2011, he was an American fitness, exercise, and nutritional expert and motivational speaker who is sometimes called “the godfather of fitness” and the “first fitness superhero.”
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.
Born in San Francisco, California on September 26, 1914, LaLanne’s parents were Jennie (née Garaig) (1884–1973) 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.
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 September 28, 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.
As a child, he ate a lot of sugary foods and got into trouble at school.
“I was a sugarholic and a junk food junkie! It made me weak and it made me mean,” LaLanne later said.
But he completely changed his life around after attending a lecture by a nutritionist as a teenager.
LaLanne cut out sugar and other unhealthy foods from his diet and began exercising.
The one-time problem child transformed into a top high school athlete, playing on his school’s football and wrestling teams.
For decades, LaLanne has followed a strict regimen. He gets up early and exercises for two hours – one hour of strength training and another hour of swimming.
For breakfast, LaLanne has a protein shake. Fruit and egg whites are a typical lunch for him.
Salad, brown rice, and grilled fish make up his usual dinner.