The Legacy of Jack LaLanne: How to Create a Health Movement

By DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

“My show was so personal, I made it feel like you and I were the only ones there. And Id say: ¢‚ǨÀúBoys and girls, come here. Uncle Jack wants to tell you something. You go get Mother or Daddy, Grandmother, Grandfather, whoever is in the house. You go get them, and you make sure they exercise with me.

– Jack LaLanne, (via New York Times)

Yesterday, we lost a legend: Jack LaLanne, America’s original fitness guru, died at the age of 96 from complications due to pneumonia.

Exactly 60 years ago, when The Jack LaLanne Show first aired on a local San Francisco television channel, the country marginalized fitness to an activity reserved exclusively for athletes and bodybuilders. Jack LaLanne, in his famous blue bodysuit, led weekly workouts that eventually transformed an entire nation’s attitude towards health: armed only with his biceps, his charm, and “Happy,” his white German Shepherd.

Even as the head of an influential fitness empire, which included gym equipment, health spas, two models of electric juicers, a workout album called Glamour Stretcher Time, the “longest running television exercise program” (IMDB), and a recently published book entitled Live Young Forever, Jack LaLanne’s road to success was not always smooth. He was addicted to sugar and junk food as a child, and his malnutrition led him to commit acts of violence. As his career took off, doctors disagreed with his unconventional approach to health, advising that constant workouts would lead to heart attacks. In 1996, 9% of his Juice Tiger models were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for injuries caused by the juicer’s blades.

Despite setbacks, Jack LaLanne was still able to make a profound impact on our health. He was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, the California Hall of Fame, and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Today, I am not only attempting to honor a fitness icon, I want to shed some light on just how innovative Jack LaLanne was. The lessons he taught us are the same words that we utter time and time again when we talk about the challenges we face in this industry. Allow me to demonstrate:

LaLanne EMPOWERED his audience to take control of their health.

At the dawn of the Internet (I would know, I was there), “e” stood for “electronic.” But as more and more people turned to this rich source of information for medical advice, the “e” became a symbol of “empowerment.” LaLanne’s message to his viewers was clear: take control of your health. Learn these routines and do them often. Don’t become a victim of poor eating habits, laziness, and ignorance. Learn, do, and become a better, healthier person for it.

LaLanne armed his audience with the TOOLS to achieve their fitness goals.

Jack LaLanne acknowledged that healthy living doesn’t just start when his show started and end when his show ended. It needed to become a part of his viewers’ daily routines – so he provided them with the tools to transform their lives: a juicer to make healthier meals, gym equipment to enforce a more rigorous workout. How can you help your patients achieve their health goals? What obstacles stand in their way, and what can you build to over come them?

LaLanne provided his audience with a venue to form a COMMUNITY around fitness.

The idea of a health club or gym was virtually unheard of before LaLanne opened his first health studio at the age of 21. Now, it’s a $19 billion industry. LaLanne recognized that healthier habits required a certain level of social influence. Getting fit isn’t easy, and people seek motivation and support from each other. LaLanne’s provided his viewers with a destination where they would be constantly surrounded by his fitness philosophy.

LaLanne practiced HONESTY and TRANSPARENCY with his audience.

LaLanne famously admitted that his workouts were not pleasant experiences, but they were necessary for a long and full life. In 2004, he had this to say about Yami yogurt, an early sponsor of The Jack LaLanne Show: “It tasted terrible, so I mixed it with prune juice and fruits. We made the guy a millionaire (New York Times). Exercise is hard. Sometimes healthy food tastes bad. When we communicate with our consumers, we shudder to think of making similar claims about our products. On a message board following LaLanne’s death, one person reminisces that, despite the awful taste of the yogurt, her mother “bought every word LaLanne said.”

Beyond these lessons, Jack LaLanne’s journey inspires us even further as Pharmacuetical and healthcare marketers. He survived a product recall. He practiced what he preached. He stuck to his guns. He never stopped working and advocating for health, even until his death. He made us believe in the impossible with a long list of successful publicity stunts. He didn’t just change our habits, he changed our lives.

What did you learn from Jack LaLanne? Share your story with us in the comments section!



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