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American fitness guru Jack LaLanne died of respiratory failure from pneumonia Sunday in his home in Morro Bay, California at the age of 96.
LaLanne opened what was believed to be the nation’s first health club in Oakland in 1936. In the 1950s, the exercise and nutrition expert began a fitness TV program called The Jack LaLanne Show.
“He was perfect for the intimacy of television,” Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, told The San Jose Mercury News in 2004, according to The New York Times.
“This guy had some of the same stuff that Oprah has and Johnny Carson had — the ability to insinuate themselves in the domestic space of people’s lives.”
He also invented numerous exercise machines, including the original model of what became the Smith machine. He also wrote fitness books and sold supplements and health food.
"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," Arnold Schwarzenegger said in 1990, CBS Sports reports.
LaLanne, who believed that “the only way you can hurt the body is not use it," began sharing his health mantra long before Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons came along.
"Those who begin to exercise regularly, and replace white ﬂour, sugar, and devitalized foods with live, organic, natural foods, begin to feel better immediately," Jack LaLanne said, according to The Huffington Post.
"There are so many health nuts out there who eat nothing but natural foods but they don't exercise and they look terrible. Then there are other people who exercise like a son-of-a-gun but eat a lot of junk...Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you've got a kingdom!"
LaLanne was widely recognized for his unbelievable strength, healthy diet, and his success with bettering the physical and nutritional health of the country. Friends and family have relayed fond memories of Jack.
"He was amazing," Price is Right host Bob Barker told the Associated Press on Sunday, according to CBS Sports. "He never lost enthusiasm for life and physical fitness. "I saw him in about 2007 and he still looked remarkably good. He still looked like the same enthusiastic guy that he always was."
"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," Elaine LaLanne, LaLanne's wife of 51 years, said in a written statement.