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Jack LaLanne's enthusiasm for fitness created an enduring legacy

January 24, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Fred Prouser / Reuters )

Jack LaLanne was a junk-food junkie when he was a teenager -- hardly an auspicious beginning for the man who would be father of the fitness movement in America. But it was meeting another early healthy believer that turned him around.

LaLanne, who died Sunday at 96, credits nutritionist Paul Bragg with helping him see the light. His mother took him to a lecture when he was 15. A Los Angeles Times obituary explains what happened next:

"At some point, Bragg asked the young LaLanne what he had eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and LaLanne told him: 'Cakes, pies, ice cream!' 'He said, "Jack, you are a walking garbage can," ' LaLanne said. But Bragg offered salvation to LaLanne: He could be 'born again' and be the healthful and strong person he wanted to be — if he changed his ways."

LaLanne took the advice to heart, and the rest is history. What’s most impressive is the list of bizarre feats to his credit, including swimming handcuffed from Alcatraz to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco in 1955; completing 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes on TV in 1956; and swimming the Golden Gate Channel towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser in 1957.

And this was all when he was in his 40s. Check out more feats on his website here.

Aside from his physical triumphs, LaLanne also pioneered leg extension machines and created the first cable-pulley exercise machine in the 1950s.

His impressive dedication to the fit life earned him a high-profile Hollywood accolade in 2002: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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