Decades before the scientific community and the general public realized that a healthy body requires strength training, one man was already at it: Jack LaLanne. Last Sunday the iconic figure died at the age of 96.
Jack Lalanne was born 1914 in San Francisco, California, to French immigrants and later described himself as a “miserable goddamn kid” that frequently got into fights. Things changed when at age 15 he developed an interest in exercise and nutrition and studied Henry Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. After graduating from High School, he attended night classes at a Chiropractic College and finished with a Doctor of Chiropractic.
In 1936, at the age of 21, he opened the first of his own health spas in Oakland, California, where he also designed the first leg extension and pulley machines for usage as weightlifting devices, which he felt could aid people further on the course to health.
Which is what he always saw at the heart of it: Improving your well-being through physical exercise. This was his message to everyone, including women, whom he encouraged to train their bodies as well – in that era an especially unusual recommendation.
Indeed, back then the time for this message hadn’t been quite ripe. He later recalled that in those early days people thought he was a “charlatan and a nut” and that “working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.”
From Spa To Television
But he and his message persevered and it paid off: 30 years before the likes of Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons, LaLanne had the chance to bring fitness into people’s homes via their televisions. In 1951 the “Jack LaLanne Show” began as a local broadcast at ABC’s San Francisco affiliate, to be then transferred to the network itself:
Mostly his exercises required no equipment other than a chair, making it very easy to join him in doing what he demonstrated. And he patiently explained to viewers why and how he was doing what he was doing: “We’re going to work this thing out together,” he told those in front of the television.
I may not agree with everything Jack preached, especially when in his later life he started marketing vitamin supplements and juicers and came up with the “if it tastes good, spit it out” rule, that for my feeling is too hostile to the fact that food should be enjoyed too.
But there is no doubt that Jack was way ahead of everyone else in realizing how important the right amount of strength training and a more conscious nutrition are for physical health and he lived his life as a glowing example of it.
Thank you, Jack!