Fitness guru Jack LaLanne dies at 96 in California

Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:34pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Jack LaLanne, a one-time sugar-holic who became a television fitness guru preaching exercise and healthy diet to a generation of American housewives, died on Sunday at age 96, his daughter said.

LaLanne, who became U.S. television fixture in his close-fitting jumpsuit starting in 1959 and came to be regarded as the father of the modern fitness movement, succumbed to pneumonia following a brief illness at his home in Morro Bay, along the California's central coast.

"He was surrounded by his family and passed very peacefully and in no distress ... and with the football game on Sunday, so everything was normal," Yvonne LaLanne, 66, told Reuters.

She said her father had remained active until a few months ago, including the taping of a recent public TV special.

Well into his 90s, LaLanne exercised for two hours a day. A typical workout would be 90 minutes of weightlifting and 30 minutes of swimming, changing his routine every 30 days.

He preached the gospel of exercise, raw vegetables and clean living long after his contemporaries had traded in their bicycles for nursing home beds.

"I can't die," LaLanne would say. "It would ruin my image."

LaLanne was born Francois Henri LaLanne on September 26, 1914, in San Francisco, the son of French immigrants. He said he grew into a "sugar-holic" who suffered terrible headaches, mood swings and depression.   Continued...