R.I.P. Jack LaLanne

Lessons Learned from “Jumping Jack”

If ever a fitness guru walked the walk, it was Jack LaLanne. He swore off sweets at age 15 and began a lifetime of daily exercise and healthy eating. With disarming candor and chirpy exuberance, LaLanne poked and prodded the American public into following his example. Always willing to dish out some tough love, he became known for his pointed “LaLanneisms”:

  • If it tastes good, spit it out.
  • If man makes it, don’t eat it.
  • Don’t exceed the feed limit.
  • Ten seconds on the lips, lifetime on the hips.
  • Your waistline is your lifeline.
  • Eat right and you can’t go wrong.
  • Better to wear out than rust out.
  • First we inspire them, then we perspire them.
  • Exercise is king, nutrition is queen. Put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.
  • Your health is like a bank account—the more you put in, the more you can take out.
  • I can’t die—it would ruin my image.

Jack LaLanne was the poster boy for successful aging. While marveling at his life, I was reminded of a book by Dr. Walter Bortz—We Live Too Short and Die Too Long. Bortz makes the point that longevity without quality of life is merely aging. In order to age successfully, our health span should match our life span. Bortz writes, “Others have described life span as a bell-shaped curve, growing to fullness and richness, only to decline into age and dependency. I deplore the decremental model, preferring instead to think of life as a ‘square-edged’ existence—passionate and forceful to the end.”

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The red line represents the gradual decline in health many sedentary individuals experience as they age. People like LaLanne, represented by the blue line, run full steam right up to the end. Though most of us will not match LaLanne’s extreme regimen of healthy eating and daily exercise, plenty of studies show that eating well and exercising on a regular basis is also associated with higher quality of life as we age.

Perhaps the most important LaLanneism is this: “The only way you can hurt the body is not use it. Inactivity is the killer, and remember, it’s never too late.” Let’s continue “Jumping Jack’s” legacy, both leading by personal example and by encouraging our friends, families and clients to adopt healthier lifestyles.

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