Jack LaLanne, ‘The Godfather of Fitness,’ Dies at Age 96

January 24, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Jack LaLanne arrives at Petersen Automotive Museum's 2005 Cars and Stars Gala May 12, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Katy Winn/Getty Images)
Jack LaLanne arrives at Petersen Automotive Museum's 2005 Cars and Stars Gala May 12, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Katy Winn/Getty Images)
Jack LaLanne famously said, "I can’t die. It would ruin my image." He died at age 96, of pneumonia on Sunday. His image was of an always smiling, always positive strong man. He did Herculean feats. He swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco, in frigid waters, wearing handcuffs and shackles, and towing a boat. He was 60 years old at the time.

On Jan. 20, three days before his death, he blogged: "Hello students, Hope you all are keeping your New Year’s Resolutions to taking care of the most important person on this earth, YOU!!!!"

LaLanne was born on Sept. 26, 1914, in San Francisco, and died at his home in California on Jan. 23, 2011. He was a fitness and nutrition pioneer, “The Godfather of Fitness,” starting weight training studios in his native California in 1936. It became the national chain which is now Ballys.

He hosted the Jack LaLanne Show from 1951-1985, in which he cheerfully encouraged his audience to work out at home with the simplest equipment. His dog, Happy, joined him on the show and did tricks while he demonstrated exercises.

LaLanne set a record for pushups when he was 43 years old. He performed 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes, on television.

He wrote many books, including "Live Young Forever, Revitalize Your Life," and "Cooking With Jack ~~~ Eat Right And You Can't Go Wrong." He sold a power juicer, books, clothes, workout equipment, and DVDs.

"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," said his wife of 51 years, Elaine LaLanne in a statement. She, too was a fitness devotee and an author, and often joined him on television. They had three children.