Fitness Icon Jack LaLanne Dies at Age 96

 Mike Guastella/

Fitness guru Jack LaLanne has died at the age of 96, family and friends confirmed to the Associated Press. LaLanne, who spent his long life exercising, keeping a healthy diet and advocating the same for all Americans, passed away Sunday in his Morro Bay, Calif. home; the cause was respiratory failure due to pneumonia.

Elaine LaLanne, his wife of 51 years and frequent companion during TV appearances, said in a written statement: "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."

LaLanne was famous for maintaining a muscular, healthy look far into his geriatric years. He became a star with a morning workout show — using exercises that required no special equipment — that aired on TV from the 1950s through the 70s.

He also founded a chain of eponymous health clubs as well as a popular "Power Juicer" product.

"The only way you can hurt the body is not use it," he once said. "Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it's never too late."

Among his impressive fitness victories: At age 43, he performed 1,000 pushups in 23 minutes during a TV show. At age 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat.

"I never think of my age, never," he said in 1990. "I could be 20 or 100. I never think about it, I'm just me. Look at Bob Hope, George Burns. They're more productive than they've ever been in their whole lives right now."

Arnold Schwarzenegger said in 1990 of his fellow fitness icon: "He laid the groundwork for others to have exercise programs, and now it has bloomed from that black and white program into a very colorful enterprise."

"It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life," LaLanne once explained. "How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it."

The star is survived by his wife plus two sons, Dan and Jon, and daughter Yvonne.

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