Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jack LaLanne turns 95 - if you are into fitness today, say thank you to this pioneer

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne turns 95 on September 26.

To people who grew up in the 60's and 70's, LaLanne is one of - if not the - most instantly recognizable fitness names: someone who has been relevant, vocal and visible as a fitness advocate for decades.

I did an article with a clip from one of his old shows and an overview of his accomplishments on San Jose Fitness Examiner - please check it out: Keep Reading »

But on a more personal note, his birthday got me thinking about the amazing consistency LaLanne has represented in an industry that has often been known for lack of ethics, trendiness and inconsistency.

While we take the fitness industry for granted today, and that's pretty much a new development. In the 40's, 50's and 60's, there were many "fitness" experts who made wild and crazy promises, who urged the silliest possible exercises to women in order to help them "stay desirable" and who opened high-pressure, high-cost "spas" which basically catered to people with more money than sense.

Fitness centers had equipment that was either geared toward body builders, or machines with rollers and belts that would "vibrate off the fat."

Athleticism among women was considered unfeminine. Healthy eating was defined as red-meat-and-potatoes, with plenty of canned vegetables topped by butter. Cross-training by athletes was virtually unknown.

LaLanne was a kook in many ways. But a healthy, consistent, upbeat kook, who gave millions of housewives a better perspective on fitness. He paved the way for what actually developed into fitness as we know it today - creating a climate for Jazzercize, Jane Fonda, Denise Austin (another California fitness professional who was LaLanne's co-host for a time) - which helped build an industry that today affects every American and is a part of our daily conversation.

A neighbor in her 30's heard me say it was Jack LaLanne's birthday and asked why I'd care about that man who does infomercials for juicers on late night tv. Then again, she also gave me a puzzled look when I mentioned Jane Fonda's impact on fitness.

I'm immensely impressed with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver, who made certain that LaLanne was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2008 so that his contributions would be recognized.

Thanks again, Jack LaLanne. And Happy Birthday.

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