Jack LaLanne was considered by many to represent the gold standard of natural fitness. All his adult life he espoused a philosophy of health and fitness based on exercise and diet alone, shunning gimmicks and pharmaceutical enhancement. He lived to the age of 96.
Although fitness was his passion and his profession (he once set a record by towing 70 boats one mile at age 70!), he spoke to the average person who didn’t have time to pursue excellence in physical accomplishment. He wasn’t a professional athlete even though he maintained the fitness of one long past age 70.
Here are a few of his habits.
LaLanne often said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” He would commonly eat only food he prepared himself from ingredients he knew. Even though he and his wife ate out almost every night, he would give explicit instructions to the chef to be sure nothing unhealthy got into his food.
It’s good to remember that diet is what you eat, not what you don’t. If people would think more about eating the right stuff instead of just avoiding bad foods, they would be healthier. That’s what Jack did.
Jack’s diet was mostly meat and vegetables. He would eat some protein at each meal and usually ate fruits early in the day and vegetables later. An active person can handle the extra sugar fruits contribute while benefiting from the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain.
He was a vegetarian for many years but gradually came to the realization that he did better with a little meat and some eggs in his diet. Jack was an early disciple of Paul Bragg, a popular naturopath and advocate of fasting.
Jack LaLanne exercised every day. He believed that we don’t grow old from working too much but from exercising too little. Lack of movement leads to stiffness, pain, decreased flexibility, loss of mobility, depletion of lean body mass (muscle) and loss of calcium in the bones, or osteoporosis. All of these are the hallmarks of aging.
It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. When you exercise intermittently or go on an intense program to get back in shape, you increase your chance of injury, which will keep you from exercising. Jack worked out for two hours a day, every day, but a normal person needs much less to see significant results.
Jack’s routine started at 4:00 am with an hour of weight training followed by an hour in the pool. This got exercise out of the way early so his workday was free from excuses for not working out. He ate ten raw vegetables a day and five or six pieces of fruit. He ate two meals a day with protein in both of them.
For most of us who may not have a gym and a pool in our own homes, the best solution is to find a reasonably priced fitness center which is open early and late. Check out 24 Hour Fitness prices as one example.
Jack believed sugar to be the greatest threat to fitness for Americans, even worse than smoking. He attributed cutting out refined sugar at age 15, when he met Paul Bragg, to turning his life around, which until then had been characterized by severe behavioral problems (he once set his house on fire). He also avoided milk and coffee, though dairy products like protein-rich Greek yogurt and cheeses are fine for some people. It’s hard to find evidence that coffee is truly bad for people, despite its mild addictive properties