Jack LaLanne was the original California workout king: A bodybuilder famous not only for his feats of strength — like swimming to Alcatraz handcuffs — but also for opening a string of workout clubs (thought to be the first); hosting a lifestyle and fitness television show from 1951-1985; and pioneering now-popular health concepts like juicing. Now, he is set to get a cinematic two-fer via Mark Wahlberg, whose Unrealistic Ideas will team up with WonderFilm Media and LaLanne’s widow, Elaine, for both a documentary and a biopic about his life, according to Hollywood Reporter.
Born Francois Henri in 1914, LaLanne was the earliest innovator in fitness. A bodybuilder, he was one of the first to intuit that nutrition had to be incorporated alongside exercise, and so he invented protein powder and the protein bar, as well as popularized pressed juice. In 1936, at age 21, he opened his first Physical Culture Studio, the precursor for the modern gym. There, he popularized weight training — for women and men, the elderly and those with physical disabilities.
Lalanne debuted one of the early fitness TV shows in 1951, using his personable affect to implore his viewers to “Get off your seat and on your feet” and even use stretching to cure a hangover. He dispensed diet advice and allowed his German Shepard to make appearances.
The program ran for three decades.
After that, Lalanne grew out his gym empire, ultimately opening 200 centers, and then focused on his own “Power Juicer.”
He put in two-hour daily workouts well into his 90s.
“I’ll tell you one thing, you don’t always have to be on the go,” he said of his lifestyle. “I sit around a lot, I read a lot, and I do watch television. But I also work out for two hours every day of my life, even when I’m on the road.”
He died in 2011 at the age 96.
“He was a catalyst in getting all this fitness started,” said widow Elaine LaLanne, who spoke to Los Angeles magazine in 2022 and was by his side during much of his life’s journey.
She recently co-authored a new book called Pride and Discipline: The Legacy of Jack LaLanne.
“It’s a rolling stone,” she said of the popularization of gym culture. “People were not only responding to ideas but getting results… passing on and improving on the knowledge.”
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