Jack Lalanne: "Igniting change"

The death of fitness promoter Jack Lalanne after a lifetime of healthy living was a reminder that a life well-lived is worth pursuing. Well into his 90s, Lalanne was exercising regularly and preaching about the need to get off the couch, get our bodies moving and eating well. By all accounts, he was an amazing man, performing feats of strength and endurance at an age when others struggle with walkers in nursing homes. He appeared regularly on television, a medium that he started using in 1951 when he launched a local show in San Francisco, working to convince us that taking care of our bodies was the best prescription for a better life.

His passing has brought his message sharply into focus again at a time when so many people are overweight, eating poorly and feeling the effects of the diseases of prosperity: cardiovascular problems and diabetes.

The father of the fitness club phenomenon, Lalanne was famous before bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and fitness celebrities like Richard Simmons.

From the moment he changed his dietary and fitness habits in his teens when he was addicted to sugar, all the way to his death as a great-looking man of 96, Lalanne showed us that good health is about making some basic choices and then following up with appropriate actions.

A number of web sites have posted some of his remarks as writers reflected on his contributions. I like this one, because it speaks to our need to make life changes, no matter what your age:

"I train like I'm training for the Olympics or for a Mr. America contest, the way I've always trained my whole life. You see, life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest. How many healthy people do you know? How many happy people do you know? Think about it. People work at dying, they don't work at living. My workout is my obligation to life. It's my tranquilizer. It's part of the way I tell the truth — and telling the truth is what's kept me going all these years."

For someone like me, for example, who at age 50 still has a sweet tooth, the clearest call to action is this one:

"I don't care how old I live; I just want to be LIVING while I am living!"

Well-said, Jack, and thanks for the wake-up call.


The photo of Jack Lalanne is courtesy of Nathan Cremisino and Wikimedia Commons. It shows Lalanne at a ceremony in September 2007 in Venice Beach, California. Other photos, from a variety of sources, can be seen here.

Lalanne's web site, featuring a collection of his videos, can be found here.

More quotations from Lalanne are featured on this site.

Community service

Recently, a retired priest shared a personal experience.

The priest explained that for a period of some years he had been part of a small volunteer group. This group was formed in the parish to arrange regular visits to a nearby correctional facility that housed 700 prisoners. Every Saturday, the priest accompanied "the committee," as he called it, to the prison.

He was struck in particular by the efforts of one of the group's members, a man whom the priest described as having "great faith." It turns out the parishioner was a former police officer, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who had retired from the force after 22 years of service. He had then joined CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

These new duties apparently did not prevent him from remaining devoted to his religion: he attended Mass every morning, and continued visiting the inmates on weekends.

The priest marvelled at how a police officer, who for decades had worked to send offenders to prison, could now devote his time to helping people behind bars.

I'm glad he shared this reminiscence. It serves as a reminder that we can always make an effort to recognize the needs of fellow human beings, regardless of the circumstances.