Fitness Pioneer Jack LaLanne Dead at 96: Respiratory Failure from Pneumonia


Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who inspired television viewers to trim down and pump iron for decades before exercise became a national obsession, died Sunday. He was 96.

Francois Henri “Jack” LaLanne (September 26, 1914 – January 23, 2011) was an American fitness, exercise, nutritional expert, and motivational speaker who had been called “the godfather of fitness”. Jack LaLanne founded a chain of health clubs, which he eventually licensed to the Bally company — known as Bally Total Fitness. Though not associated with any gym, LaLanne continued to lift weights until his death.

Would you give your dog a cigarette and a doughnut for breakfast every morning? People think nothing of giving themselves that for breakfast, and they wonder why they don’t feel good.”
— Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne is famous for his success as a bodybuilder as well as for his prodigious feats of strength, such as swimming while towing boats.

Notable feats and physical world records of Jack LaLanne
1984 (age 70): Handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, Jack LaLanne towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile.

1980 (age 66): Jack LaLanne towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile (1.6 km) in less than one hour.

1979 (age 65): Jack LaLanne towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 pounds (2,900 kg; 460 st) of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.

1976 (age 62): Jack LaLanne commemorated the “Spirit of ’76”, United States Bicentennial, by swimming one mile (1.6 km) in Long Beach Harbor. LaLanne was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.

1975 (age 61): Jack LaLanne repeated his performance of 21 years earlier, swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater and handcuffed, but this time he was shackled and towing a 1,000-pound (450 kg) boat.

1974 (age 60): For the second time, Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf. Again, LaLanne was handcuffed, but this time he was also shackled and towed a 1,000-pound (450 kg) boat.

1959 (age 45): Jack LaLanne did 1,000 star jumps (like jumping jacks) and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes.

1958 (age 44): Jack LaLanne maneuvered a paddleboard nonstop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore. The 30-mile (48 km) trip took 9.5 hours.

1957 (age 43): Jack LaLanne swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500-pound (1,100 kg) cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile (1.6 km) swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles (10.5 km).

1956 (age 42): Jack LaLanne set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on You Asked For It, a television program with Art Baker.

1955 (age 41): Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterwards he was quoted as saying, “the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which reduced his chance to Star Jump significantly.”

1954 (age 40): Jack LaLanne swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, underwater, with 140 pounds (64 kg) of equipment, including two air tanks. A world record.


An early inspiration video from Jack Lalanne.

He was inducted to the California Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.