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Fitness inspiration Jack LaLanne dies at 96

January 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Fitness icon Jack LaLanne died Sunday at his home on California's central coast of respiratory failure due to pneumonia. He was 96.Decades before exercise became a national obsession, LaLanne was inspiring his viewers to get in shape. He became known as the "godfather of fitness."

LaLanne's long life is a testament to the benefits of his passion for health and fitness.

He often demonstrated amazing feats of strength and endurance.

The fitness guru probably did more than anyone to raise awareness of healthy eating and exercise.

Most Americans got to know LaLanne through TV. His workout show was a fixture from the 1950s to the 1970s. He inspired viewers, especially women, to eat well, lose weight and work out.

Even well into his 90s LaLanne maintained an impressive physique and he never lost his enthusiasm for fitness.

As a child, LaLanne was addicted to sugar. After attending a lecture on fitness, he swore off fat and sugar and began eating fruits and vegetables and changed his body.

LaLanne designed and invented strength machines still used in the fitness industry today. By the 1980s, he had his name on more than 200 health clubs.

He wrote books and marketed exercise and nutrition products. And he displayed his strength in a series of fitness stunts.

When he was 40 years old, he swam handcuffed from Alcatraz to San Francisco.

At the age of 61, he swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater pulling a 1,000-pound boat.

A few years ago, LaLanne received a lifetime achievement award at Muscle Beach in Venice.

LaLanne's wife of 51 years issued a statement calling her husband her best friend and a great American icon.