Back in the early 1950s, through the magic of television, Jack LaLanne was regularly leading tens of thousands of housewives and at least one small boy -- me -- through a series of exercises. By virtue of his long-running (1951-1985) The Jack LaLanne Show, he inspired a whole nation to eat better and exercise. Well, maybe not an entire nation; many didn't heed his advice and follow his lead and hence, our current pandemic of obesity and chronic disease.

Today, now 95, he still inspires folks of all ages through occasional TV appearances, at least eight books and various other products to take better care of themselves so they can "look better, feel better and live longer."

Until a recent setback (a heart-valve-repair procedure in December of 2009), the Godfather of Fitness, as he is known, was still making personal appearances, maintaining his two-hour daily workouts (1 1/2 hours of strength training and a 30-minute swim) and sticking to his strict eating regimen that includes only eating two meals a day and no snacking. Jack ,however, doesn't expect the rest of us to follow his Spartan-like exercise routine or his near-perfect diet. He simply suggests that we cut 'way down on our white flour and sugar products (fewer processed foods -- more natural fare) and get in just three or four 25- to 30-minute workouts a week. He says this will make all the difference in the quality of our lives.

Over the years, Jack, through a series of mind-boggling feats of strength and endurance, has shown what exercise, an excellent diet, and a positive, can-do attitude can do for us:

•In 1955 a 41-year-old Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf while handcuffed
•At age 60 he repeated the Alcatraz to Fisherman's Wharf swim in handcuffs, only this time his feet were shackled and he was towing a 1,000-pound boat
•In 1984, now 70, he upped the ante even more: Again in shackles and handcuffs, Jack, fighting strong winds and currents, swam 1.5 miles with 70 boats, carrying 70 people, in tow -- from Queen's Way Bridge in Long Beach to the Queen Mary

On a lesser scale, at age 42 on a TV show, he set a World Record for push-ups by completing 1,033 in 23 minutes; another time he performed 100 handstand push-ups in less than six minutes. That's what we call leading by example.

It should be noted that Jack wasn't always fit. In his early teens Jack had a penchant for getting into serious trouble both at home and at school. He was a scrawny, underweight teen, who was chosen last if at all in schoolyard games, who had serious emotional issues which he later would blame on his being a "sugarholic" and a "junk-food junkie." At age 15, after hearing a lecture by the legendary nutritionist and fitness promoter, Paul C. Bragg, he was inspired to drastically change his diet and start exercising. Within days he was a new person and went on to be a star high school athlete in several sports, including football and wrestling.

Part of Jack's wide appeal and a secret to his longevity is his quick wit and sense of humor. In recent years, when asked what his next great feat will be, he quips about towing his wife, Elaine, across the bathtub. He also likes to say that he can't afford to die because "it would ruin my image."

Jack's health and fitness TV show and his Herculean feats were not his only accomplishments. Among many other firsts and various achievements are the following:

•In 1936, at age 21, he opened his own health spa
•Jack designed the first leg-extension machines
•He is also credited with designing the first pulley machines using cables and the first weight selectors (both staples of the current health and fitness clubs)
•In his late thirties he won a professional Mr. America contest and was awarded "Best Chest." At age 69 he still boasted a 47-inch chest to go with a 27-inch waist
•He was the creator of the popular Smith Machine (used in most gyms today to make doing squats with heavy weights safer)

Jack LaLanne continues to inspire people of all ages to take better care of themselves through his high-energy public appearances, books and videos. And, yes, he still performs inspiring feats. He celebrated his 95th birthday this past Fall, for example, by doing 95 push-ups. Jack expects to be back on the TV circuit this month and to continue to lead by example and inspire for years to come. Which brings us to this: Did you get in your three or four 30-minute exercise sessions this week? How about last week? Next week? Really?

For more information about Jack LaLanne and to see vintage footage (VIDEOS) of his TV show and more recent appearances, visit: JackLaLanne.com

Author's Bio: 

Ed Mayhew is a leading authority on slowing and reversing aging naturally, who through his speaking engagements, books, CDs and newsletters, helps Boomers thrive! His age-redefining books include: Fitter After 50, Fitter for Life and AGE BLASTERS: 3 Steps to a Younger You Visit him at: www.YouCanGrowYounger.com www.FitterForLife.com AND Ask for your F*R*E*E** Fitter After 50 e-newsletter