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How Impressive Was Fitness Legend Jack LaLanne?

Jack LaLanne was a titan of fitness, pioneering health practices that are foundational today. His dedication to exercise and nutrition was ahead of his time, inspiring countless individuals to prioritize their well-being. His feats of strength and endurance remain benchmarks of physical achievement. What might we learn from his legacy to enhance our own fitness journeys?
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

The term "legend" gets thrown around a lot these days, but in at least one case, it's an apt description. In a career spanning over 70 years, Jack LaLanne, the founder of the modern fitness movement, made his mark as a bodybuilder, nutrition expert, author, motivational speaker, inventor, and TV host. LaLanne opened the nation's first health and fitness club in California in 1936, at the young age of 21. With his TV programs, books, and exercise machines, he continued to extoll the virtues of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle for people of all ages and abilities until his death at age 96 in 2011.

Listing all of the achievements of the "Godfather of Fitness" would be impossible, but some of them remain particularly impressive. In addition to his professional success, LaLanne excelled at performing feats of strength and stamina, proving that it's possible to be strong, fit, and healthy at any age. One of his most memorable feats occurred in 1976, to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial. The 62-year-old LaLanne swam a mile (1.6 km) along Long Beach Harbor, handcuffed and shackled, towing 13 aluminum skiffs (representing the thirteen colonies) filled with 76 young people.

The Godfather of Fitness:

  • The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest-running exercise program in TV history, airing from 1951 to 1985.

  • LaLanne's other impressive feats included swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater with 140 lbs (64 kg) of equipment strapped to his body. He accomplished this in 1954, aged 40, and in 1975, aged 61.

  • LaLanne exercised for two hours every day into his 90s, lifting weights, walking, and swimming. He typically ate two meals a day, sticking to a mostly vegetarian diet (except fish) and avoiding processed foods.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

dimchild

Many things in the article are vague to me. For instance, what does swimming "handcuffed and shackled" mean? Also, what does "aluminum skiffs" mean, and how can a shackled person swim towing 13 of them?

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    • To celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, 62-year-old fitness guru Jack LaLanne (shown here in 2007) swam Long Beach Harbor towing 13 boats.
      By: Nathan Cremisino
      To celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, 62-year-old fitness guru Jack LaLanne (shown here in 2007) swam Long Beach Harbor towing 13 boats.