Thanks, Jack!

Friday, April 15th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Quoted by Jim Evans in a 1996 SFA article, Jack LaLanne encouraged seniors this way: “Challenge yourself. Swim against the clock and swim vigorously.” He added, “Exercise should be a daily habit. Just get up and do it!” In today’s issue of Experience! Jim Evans provides further insight into the man he knew. Also included are several photographs that Jack gave to Jim over the years.

DEAR JIM: I was saddened to learn about the passing of Jack LaLanne, but, frankly, I wasn’t surprised. I thought he should have died years ago performing some of those crazy stunts of his. I used to exercise to his TV show in the fifties — I’m 75 now — but I quit working out years ago because I thought he took exercise too seriously. After all, doesn’t it just prove that no matter what we do to take care of ourselves, we will all die eventually anyway? DOUBTING THOMAS

DOUBTING THOMAS: Wow! You certainly missed Jack’s message by a mile!

Jack had no illusions about living forever, even though he joked that “dying would ruin his image.” And he often said – very honestly – that he didn’t work out because he “liked it” but, rather, because it enhanced his quality of life as he grew older and allowed him to continue to do things that people half his age had long since give up because they were simply “too old.”

“People don’t die of old age,” he said. “They die of inactivity.”

I first met Jack LaLanne ( on his birthday – September 26 – in 1968 at the grand opening of the European Health Spa in Dublin, Ohio. Of course, I had grown up with Jack, watching him on TV with my mother in the fifties, but it is something else when you get to meet a legend in person.

Several hundred people had gathered to see the new club but, more important, they wanted to meet the guest of honor – the “godfather of fitness.” Small in stature – he was only about 5’6” – Jack was “big” in personality with a terrific sense of humor. As he was about to speak to the crowd, a very large woman elbowed her way rudely to the front of the room to see the fitness icon in person. The crowd grumbled audibly but parted so that she could get by, curious about her purpose. Finally, face to face with Jack, she looked him up and down and appeared noticeably crestfallen.

“Why,” she said with disappointment, “you’re not any bigger than my husband.”

“That’s right,” replied Jack with a big grin. “The difference with me is that everything still works.”

The crowd erupted in laughter as he gave her a big hug.

I ran into Jack many times during my 44 years in the fitness industry, and he was always the same outgoing, friendly, fun-loving guy with a positive attitude about life. While many so-called fitness experts have had more academic credentials or titles than Jack, no one could sell the concept of physical fitness with more natural enthusiasm – more passion – than Jack. He made exercise fun.

“Better to wear out than rust out,” he said. He was right, you know. Why don’t you put away your cynicism and start doing something physical? I know Jack would approve.


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