Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rant #430: Exercise Is Good For You

Physical fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne died over the weekend. He was 96 years old.

He was among the first of the superstar physical fitness personalities, and probably was the first using the then-relatively new medium of television as his springboard to success.

As a kid, I remember watching these syndicated shows, which I believe were run in New York City on Channel 11. They were in black and white, and featured LaLanne, a chair, maybe one other prop, and his beloved German shepherd.

And that was it. No fancy gizmos, nothing that would cost the viewer an arm and a leg to own, nothing like that.

And unlike most exercise gurus of this time, he appealed to women. Homemakers were the biggest chunk of his audience.

Sure, it was bare-bones TV at its finest, but it made LaLanne a household name, even in households that didn’t know a bench press from a bench warmer.

LaLanne, in his signature jump suit, would do jumping jacks and other relatively simple-to-do exercises during a quick half hour show, all the while his dog would be walking in and out of view.

LaLanne believed that anyone could get in shape, and he showed you how it could get done. Not only did he preach physical fitness, he lived the lifestyle, and was one of the first celebrities who pumped up the idea of healthy eating as well as an exercise regimen, leading to better overall health.

His fame spread, and he appeared on numerous TV shows, always in the character of Jack LaLanne, fitness guru. A lot of those appearances were satires on what he was famous for, but LaLanne took it all in stride. I am sure he believed that however he was able to get out the word on physical fitness, the better it was, and he was really good at selling this concept …

So good that in later years, he resurfaced on TV as the proponent of a juicing machine. Sure, it was an infomercial, but it was entertaining because of LaLanne.

And many of his original TV shows are finally finding their way to DVD. The physical fitness concepts he proposed 50 years ago are as valid today as they were in the 1960s.

So every time you see a commercial for one of those gadgets that will cost you lots of money to own, or see one of today’s fitness gurus go through the motions on what you should be doing to gain good health, think of LaLanne.

Without him, it is doubtful whether these gadgets and people would ever be able to be hawked, or be as visible as they are, without the guy who started it all more than 50 years ago.

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