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.