In Learning from Legends

As a gym rat myself, I was saddened by the recent death of fitness legend, Jack LaLanne. He was known by many as the “Godfather of Fitness”. But even if you don’t recognize his name, chances are any diet or exercise regimen you’ve ever followed likely exists because of his passion for nutrition and fitness.

His philosophies, teachings and inventions created a cultural revolution and made the world a better, healthier place. But, as with many legends, his success didn’t come easy.

Here are 21 Things You May Not Know About Jack LaLanne:

  1. His real name was Francois Henri LaLanne.
  2. His older brother nicknamed him “Jack”.
  3. He had a childhood addiction to sugar that made him pimply and mean.
  4. When he was 15 years old, he heard pioneer nutritionist, Paul Bragg, speak about nutrition and fitness, which sparked his interest and ultimately changed his life.
  5. He started experimenting with weight lifting at his local YMCA.
  6. Though he eventually went to Chiropractic school, he was largely self-taught in his younger years and considered Gray’s Anatomy to be his bible (the medical version, not the McDreamy/McSteamy version!).
  7. He opened his first health studio in 1936, forty years before the fitness craze struck America.
  8. He invented the first leg extension machine and the first pulley machines using cables and the first weight selectors.
  9. Early on, most people thought he was charlatan and nut.
  10. Even doctors were against him and they claimed that working out with weights would “give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive. Women would look like men and even varsity coaches predicted that their athletes would get muscle bound and banned them from lifting weights.”
  11. Time proved LaLanne’s philosophy correct and today all the world class athletes work out with weights, as do many members of the general public, both male and female.
  12. Fifteen years after he opened his first fitness center, he got his own television show and his methods and teachings started to spread.
  13. The Jack LaLanne Show ran for 34 years and went on to become the longest running television exercise program.
  14. By the 1980s, there were more than 200 Jack LaLanne European Health Spas.
  15. He eventually licensed all his health clubs to the Bally company and they are now known as Bally Total Fitness.
  16. Today LaLanne has millions of fans all over the world who have followed his philosophy and have benefited from his teachings.
  17. When it comes to nutrition, he has two simple rules: “If man made it, don’t eat it” and “If it tastes good, spit it out”.
  18. When he was 54 years old, he beat then21-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger “badly” in an informal weight-lifting contest.
  19. He was the one who originally coined the phrase that haunts every chocolate-loving female: “Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.”
  20. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame commemorating his lifelong achievements.
  21. He lived to be 96 years old.
Jack LaLanne is proof of the transformative power of an idea and the importance of following your dreams. 
“Anything in life is possible and you can make it happen.” – Jack LaLanne


Want to read more about Jack’s amazing achievements? Head on over to and check ‘em out.


Photos courtesy of

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  • Melissa Marsh

    An amazing man. He really did a lot to improve the health of us all. May he rest in peace. He will be missed!

    • Erika Liodice

      I agree, Melissa. What a guy! He’ll definitely be missed by many.


  • Cliff

    Wow, I know a bit about Jack from a few books but you list a few I had not known, mainly 18 and 19. I wish I could know exactly how Paul Bragg lectured, I’ve had his apple cider vinegar and gone to their website but I wonder why he inspired JL so much as I’ve heard that story before. And they say those machines called Smith machines are his creation.

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