TV mainstay pre-figured the era of fitness videos

Jack LaLanne, who brought fitness, and the exercise and healthful eating need to obtain it, to television decades before the era of exercise videos, died Jan. 23 in Morro Beach, Calif., from respiratory failure due to pneumonia. He was 96.

His workout series was a staple of television. “The Jack LaLanne Show” bowed in 1951 as a local program in the San Francisco area; in 1959 it went nationwide on daytime TV. The show ran until the mid-1980s, but subsequently ran in reruns on ESPN Classic. The exercises he developed for the show required no special equipment.

In 1957, when LaLanne turned 43, he did more than 1,000 push-ups, all in 23 minutes, on the TV show “You Asked for It.”

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself an indefatigable campaigner for public fitness, credited LaLanne with bringing exercise into the living room. “He laid the groundwork for others to have exercise programs, and now it has bloomed from that black-and-white program into a very colorful enterprise,” Schwarzenegger said in 1990.

The son of poor French immigrants, LaLanne opened a health studio, complete with juice bar, in his native Oakland in 1936. It offered, among other things, weight training for women and athletes — revolutionary back then, as it was thought that such training would slow down athletes and make women appear masculine.

Most recently, LaLanne hit the Internet, in 2007, with “Jack LaLanne Live!,” on the VoiceAmerica Health and Wellness Radio Network. He, his wife, Elaine, and nephew Chris LaLanne, a personal trainer, appeared on the show.

Among the awards he received was a 2008 Athlete of Vision nod from RP Intl. Fighting Blindness.

In addition to his wife, LaLanne is survived by a daughter, a son and a stepson.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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