I was stunned when I got the news yesterday. Then again, not completely.
In early December of last year, while flying back to Tampa, I read an article in an airline magazine about one of my lifelong role models, Jack LaLanne.
I was stunned to read he’d had surgery to replace a valve in his heart and doctors forbid him to do strenuous exercise, like handstands, pushups and other movements he’d performed for decades.
Even so, even with the heart problem, at 96 years of age, it would be a tough case to argue that diet and exercise did LaLanne no good. Amazingly enough, yesterday afternoon I listened to a radio talk show host slam LaLanne as well as the “so-called” benefits of diet and exercise. Imagine hearing this guy say the equivalent of, “Face it. You’re going to die. Eat whatever you want and forget about exercise. In the end it won’t make any difference. You’ll still be dead.”
I guess the radio announcer doesn’t know LaLanne’s story of being a weak, sickly, pimply, puny, go-no-where kid at age 13 – who then attended a life-saving seminar with fitness pioneer Paul Bragg (who also lived a healthy, robust life to age 95). If it weren’t for Bragg, LaLanne would have had a miserable unhealthy existence – and most likely would have never seen his ninth decade, much less his seventh or eighth.
In1991, I attended a Jack LaLanne seminar in San Francisco, when he was only 76 years of age. Most people in today’s world aren’t as healthy as LaLanne was at 76, when they are 6, 16, 26, 36, or 46 years of age.
I still have an autographed copy of the book that Jack LaLanne signed for me at that event. And years before that, while in college, I wrote a report called “Fitness in the 80’s” – most of which was about Mr. Jack LaLanne.
In addition to the above, I’ve given LaLanne credit for my beginning as a fitness trainer and fitness author. When I read about how he got started, I decided I would do likewise.
And so, unlike the radio talk show host, I don’t think diet and exercise killed Jack LaLanne – or was bad for him – or was inconsequential. If all of us could live to 96 in the kind of condition LaLanne was in – WOW – what a people we would be.
Let’s face it: Getting your chest sawed wide open is a pretty traumatic event for a person of any age, or any fitness level, even a 96-year old fitness legend like Jack LaLanne.
Perhaps LaLanne lived an additional six months because of the surgery. Then again, maybe he would have lived another six years without it. Who knows.
What I do know is I’m sad to see him go. He did leave the world a far, far better place. And that’s the highest compliment you can give somebody when they pass on.
Thank you, Jack, for all you taught me through your books, videos, talks and tee-vee programs. You’ve benefited millions world-wide – and like your mentor, Paul Bragg, you won’t be forgotten.