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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 1/29/2004

Still fit at 89

For years, we have been advocates of a healthier lifestyle for all Americans, and especially for our children, whose diet of junk food, soda, and high-fat fast foods, along with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, bodes ill for their long-term health.

But the truth is, living right is hard. It's much easier - and tastier - to sit on the couch like a lump, feeding the body's desire for chips, pizza, ice cream, and candy, than it is to get up, work out, and eat healthy in the hope of being healthier in some distant, unseeable future.

Indeed, despite the proliferation of fitness centers, everything seems to conspire against healthy living. The growth of sprawling suburbs makes it impossible to complete most errands without an automobile, fast-food restaurants on every corner tempt us with low-cost menus, and television, computers, and video games keep our backsides glued in place while our bodies atrophy.

What we need is inspiration, and it's been in front of our eyes the whole time - more than 50 years, in fact - doing millions of jumping jacks, fingertip push-ups, and chin-ups while encouraging us to get off our collective duffs and live!

When Jack LaLanne was 60 he towed a boat filled with 1,000 pounds of sand from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay to Fisherman's Wharf - while handcuffed. At 70, again in handcuffs, he towed 70 people in 70 boats for a mile and a half.

At 89, he's given up acting as a human tugboat, but the guru of the power juicer, the man who invented the American health club, far from slowing down, is in the gym every day at 5 a.m. for an hour of work on the weights, followed by an hour in the pool.

"People think they can eat anything and just sit on their big, fat butts," Mr. LaLanne told Sports Illustrated recently.

It's tough to argue with someone who plans to celebrate his 90th birthday by swimming 30 miles from Catalina Island to Long Beach, Calif.

No amount of exercise or attention to diet is going to guarantee you a 46-inch chest and 31-inch waist when you get to be Mr. LaLanne's age.

But that doesn't mean that we can't learn from the example of this remarkable man, who as a teenager was addicted to sugar and hated his life so much that he contemplated suicide.

What changed his life at 15 was a lecture he attended by nutritionist Paul Brag, after which he resolved to eat right and start exercising.

"Any stupid can die," Mr. LaLanne says now, 75 years later.

"Living is hard! You've got to work at living!"



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