Television's first and greatest fitness guru, Jack LaLanne led millions of Americans through their daily calisthenics and made himself a legend with mind-boggling stunts demonstrating his physical prowess. In 1956, for example, at the age of 42, he set a record on the TV program "You Asked for It" by doing 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes.
On his 70th birthday, a handcuffed LaLanne swam a mile and a half while towing 70 boats with 70 people aboard. All the exercise apparently did him some good: He turned 95 in September 2009 and was still said to be working out two hours a day. Of his longevity, LaLanne quipped, "I cannot afford to die — it will ruin my image."
Born to French immigrants in San Francisco in 1914, LaLanne was deeply influenced by a lecture on nutrition he heard while a teenager. He later opened a health club in Oakland and invented the first modern exercise machines. The "godfather of fitness," as he was called, gained notoriety as a bodybuilder and began hosting his syndicated TV exercise program, "The Jack LaLanne Show," in 1951. The show remained on the air until 1985, making it the longest-running exercise program in television history.
To celebrate the show going nationwide, LaLanne, then 45, did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 chin-ups in an hour and 22 minutes. Among his other feats, at age 61 he swam the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater and handcuffed, towing a 1,000-pound boat. He eventually licensed his chain of health clubs to Bally.