25 Jan 2011

US fitness guru dies at 96

10:51 am on 25 January 2011

Fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who brought the concept of daily exercise to the American masses long before it became the norm, has died at the age of 96.

The "Godfather of Fitness" opened what was believed to have been America's first fitness club, in Oakland, California, in 1936.

He invented much of the exercise equipment seen in today's gyms, including leg extensions and cable-pulley systems.

Mr LaLanne hosted America's first national television show dedicated to exercise.

Among his many awards and recognitions, at age 88 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where city officials placed flowers in his honour on Monday.

The fitness enthusiast said his life changed at age 15 when he heard pioneer nutritionist Paul Bragg speak in Oakland.

At that time, he recalled that he was eating unhealthy foods but after the speech, he found that the local YMCA had a set of weights, and a career was born.

His publicity stunts were legendary. At age 42, he set what was believed to be a world record by doing 1033 push-ups in 23 minutes on television.

He celebrated his 60th birthday by swimming from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed, shackled and towing a 454kg boat, according to his website.

LaLanne was a successful businessman, selling the Power Juicer, books, fitness videos, and clothing.

Mr LaLanne died on Sunday at his home in Morro Bay, California of respiratory failure brought on by pneumonia, a spokeswoman for his company says. He is survived by his wife and their three children.