He tried to lift us all

Jack LaLanne helped millions become more physically fit

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Nothing worked harder in the manic and mechanized 20th century than Jack LaLanne's lungs.

They finally gave out Sunday at the age of 96.

The rest of Jack LaLanne was undoubtedly younger than that. The "founder of the modern physical fitness movement" showed us that there really is a fountain of youth: good nutrition and consistent exercise.

We know that intrinsically today, of course. Yet, not even doctors listened to Jack LaLanne's urgings to exercise when he first started his fitness business in the 1930s. Medical professionals at the time claimed -- outrageously, it's clear now -- that working out with weights would cause hearts attacks and damage the libido.

In the end, millions did listen.

But how many more millions should have?

It's difficult to describe to young people in today's media-saturated world what a novelty, even an oddity, the Father of Fitness was in the early years of his chain of gyms and his iconic workout show on television. Decades before "Ahnold" and the explosion of private workout facilities and fitness shows, Jack LaLanne seemed to be the only one on the planet with a limitless taste for exercise.

Jack LaLanne was the personification of a beautiful obsession. He ate two meals a day and didn't snack; his last dessert was in 1929. His show illustrated that you could get fit using as mundane a household item as a chair. And no one made drinking a carrot look more delicious.

He was the entire country's personal trainer.

His occasional publicity stunts -- swimming and towing weighted-down boats across San Francisco Bay while shackled and such -- showed what a fit man of 60 and even 70 years of age could accomplish.

His mind had to be even stronger than his body: He claims to have hated exercise all along, but to have simply loved the results.

If only he could've towed the rest of us there. While millions are wrapped up in the fitness craze he helped start, they're far outnumbered by the overweight and obese.

Doggone it if Jack LaLanne didn't try to bring us all along. His TV show had his brand of longevity, surviving from 1951 to 1984. And he was blogging about fitness nearly until the day he died.

Jack LaLanne was way before his time. And he did his best to lengthen ours.

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Riverman1 01/25/11 - 06:01 am
Yep, all he used was a chair

Yep, all he used was a chair and a towel. His dog, Happy, was his audience. No machines to buy, no abs of steel gadget. He was an example for all of us. For the past six months I've been on my personal journey up exercise-diet mountain and he is inspiring.

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