Jack Lalanne

by Daniel from San Diego

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It was not always commonplace to have a gym around the corner from one's household. Jack Lalanne changed all that when he brought a new view of fitness to the world, explaining to people that "'Exercise is king; nutrition is queen. Put 'em together and you've got a kingdom!'"  (Weise, Hellmich).  Lalanne grew up in Berkeley, California and was a sugar-addicted kid. One day he heard a nutritional lecture from Paul Briggs; This convinced him to make a change in his eating habits, which as he said, "changed his life" (Albert). He cut sugar and other types of foods from his diet. After years of disciplining himself and sticking to his diet, he eventually turned from the butt of jokes to the captain of his high school football team. Later on in his life while sticking to his extreme diet and fitness regime, Jack Lalanne would open up a fitness and health health club that was one of its kind at the time. Despite criticism to his beliefs in fitness, Lalanne become a national figure, and eventually hosted a television show that would help him encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle. As he aged, Jack Lalanne accomplished amazing physical feats that set him apart from the rest, such as setting a world record for more than a 1000 pushups in 23 minutes (Albert). The culminations of all these events in his life, led Jack Lalanne to possess the characteristics of determination and perseverance. Jack Lalanne should be recognized as a hero for his determination to spread his message of a healthy lifestyle, despite disbelieving attitudes towards fitness and exercise. In addition, he persevered through criticism and negativity to be known today as the "Godfather of Fitness" and create the fitness movement we have today. 

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Although Jack Lalanne suffered combating the social mores of the time towards exercise, he was still determined to teach millions how to live a healthier lifestyle. People didn't believe in weight training and nutrition, and doctors and coaches alike were against it. But Lalanne determinedly taught others his knowledge of fitness and exercise: "LaLanne, widely considered the founding father of the fitness movement in the United States, preached strength training and healthy eating long before it was fashionable" (Weise, Hellmich). Lalanne was a fitness revolutionary for the world because, despite negative attention towards his message of healthy living, he was determined to teach people to live well. Furthermore, he had merit in teaching people these lessons because he himself had overcome a childhood of junk food and sugar by cutting out all of it in his strict, new diet. Lalanne believed that hard work and dedication was the way to live better. He told others the straight truth, such as, "...forget about the 'six-minute abs' touted in some infomercials. LaLanne has always been straight with America about what it takes to be fit, hard work and commitment." (Lalanne, Still the Muscle Man). Jack Lalanne was determined for people to see and realize what they really had to do to live better. He preached that strength training, an oddity then, should be common in your workouts, like they are today. He knew that you wouldn't become a muscle man overnight, only through rigorous training and effort. Lalanne also had a television show that ran for 34 years where he used tricks to attract the most unwilling of audiences. One such was, "Another maneuver LaLanne used to attract both viewers to his television show and converts to his cause of fitness was the amazing physical feat...  In 1975, when he was sixty years old, he repeated his swim from Alcatraz to Fisherman's Wharf, this time handcuffed, shackled, and towing 1,000 pounds" (Jack Lalanne). By showing people his amazing feats of strength and endurance, and using his charisma, Lalanne drew national attention from the media and from being on TV. This helped him inspire others to live healthier lifestyles. Lalanne was determined to teach people that fitness and nutrition were essential for a healthy life. He accomplished this by preaching to people that hard work and dedication is important, and by showing off incredible feats of strength and endurance.

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Lalanne, now credited as the "Godfather of Fitness", persevered despite criticism on his work to revolutionize modern fitness. Lalanne was an entrepreneur of sorts in the world of fitness. He invented multiple commonly used exercise machines today, and created the first gym. "However, in 1936, when LaLanne opened the first fitness club in the United States, many considered him a kook and a fanatic. Though he was arguably a fanatic on the subject of health, his exercise show foreshadowed a national obsession with fitness" (Jack Lalanne). Jack Lalanne, despite being considered a kook and "a threat to people's original thoughts on exercise", persisted through the negative attention and created the first health club, which would later lead to a healthy lifestyle for millions of people. Lalanne, in an interview, remembers the criticism brought against him, such as, ''People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,'' he remembered. ''The doctors were against me -- they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive'' (Goldstein). Despite criticism from doctors, Jack Lalanne persevered through ridicule and disbelief to become a national figure on television and in fitness, which only helped his cause to get people to learn that exercise and nutrition created a better, healthier lifestyle. Lalanne, on his shows, worked out with his viewers to make them realize that he wasn't just telling them what to do, but he was wholeheartedly committed to them and was doing it with them, for their benefit. On his shows, it was shared that: "His patter as he counted out each leg lift, curl and tuck was part old-time preacher, part carnival barker. . . 'Exercise is king; nutrition is queen. Put 'em together and you've got a kingdom!'" (Weise, Hellmich). Lalanne practiced what he preached on his show and did the workouts with his viewers  to show how they'd benefit from the fitness he was showing them. Lalanne persevered through ridicule and criticism to teach people on his shows that nutrition and exercise are important and, therefore, "led the charge" towards modern fitness today.

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Jack Lalanne, now modernly known as the "Godfather of Fitness", should be recognized as a hero because of his perseverance against criticism and negativity regarding the healthy lifestyle he wanted people to live and fulfill and for his determination to change millions of lives despite disbelief in his methods and messages. He went above and beyond to teach people  how to live a healthier lifestyle and he was mourned when he passed. "Leaders of the fitness world are remembering Jack LaLanne, who died Sunday at age 96, as a pioneer who set an example all his life that inspired people of all ages" (Weise, Hellmich). Jack Lalanne was a leader of fitness and throughout his whole life, he inspired people of all ages to have a healthy lifestyle. He inspires me because he showed that no matter the position you were in, you could do little, active exercises that would build up to bigger exercises that would overall improve your fitness. These small activities would later contribute to a healthier and happier lifestyle that you could live everyday. Lalanne was a great influence to fitness and exercise and will be remembered as the blue jumpsuited man who parroted around his show, changing people's lives for the better.

Works Cited

Albert, Melissa. "Lalanne, Jack." Britannica Biographies, 3/1/2012, p. 1. EBSCOhost,

Goldstein, Richard. "Founder of Modern Fitness Movement". New York Times, 24 Jan. 2011,

"Jack LaLanne." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, Gale, 2013. Biography in Context,

"LaLanne, still the muscle man." USA Today, 27 Sept. 2004, p. 01D. Biography in Context, Accessed

2 May 2017.

Weise, Elizabeth, and Nanci Hellmich. "The larger-than-life figure who reshaped our figures."

USA Today, 25 Jan. 2011, p. 05D. Biography in Context, Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.

Page created on 5/24/2017 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/24/2017 12:00:00 AM

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