Jack LaLanne, TV's original fitness guru, is known for his enthusiasm but this year he's got a little more to look forward to: his 90th birthday.
It's not a depressing milestone to LaLanne, born on Sept. 26, 1914, who dismisses old age as a myth and says older people should get out of their easy chairs and "work at living."
At 89, he hits the gym every day at 5 a.m., lifts weights and swims for two hours.
"The only way you hurt your body is not using it. That's the killer: inactivity," LaLanne said recently at his home on the central California coast. "Sitting around on your big fat butt and thinking about the good old days. You've got to work at living. Take care of the most important thing in your life - your body."
LaLanne hosted a television exercise show in the United States for 34 years. Dressed modestly in black, he directed America's housewives from 1951-85 in the proper form for sit-ups and push-ups to the accompaniment of organ music, not disco aerobic tunes.
Sometimes he did outrageous stunts to show off his physical prowess. In 1956, the then-42-year-old performed 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on the TV show "You Asked For It." At age 70, he towed boats while swimming across Long Beach Harbor handcuffed.
When LaLanne was in his 20s, he weighed 174 pounds. Today, he weighs just 150 pounds, and still has a strapping torso and slim waist.
"I feel great," he said. "My endurance is terrific. Can't you see my wife smiling all the time?"
He said he and Elaine, his wife of nearly 50 years, take brisk walks around their 3.5-acre estate. He also travels the country giving seminars and promoting his products.
Every 30 days he changes his own routine completely.
"You have to do muscle work, you got to do flexibility, you got to do some cardiovascular," LaLanne said. "That's the key."
He encourages people who are feeling old and tired to revitalize their bodies by eating and exercising properly.
The human body has more than 600 muscles, and he believes they all need their share of work. He suggests focusing on different muscle groups at different points in a workout schedule, so that the routine doesn't become too dull.
"Everybody does the same thing year after year after year - your muscle gets used to it, you get bored," LaLanne said.
He acknowledges the average person doesn't have the time to exercise two hours per day, so he recommends 30-minute workouts, three to four times a week, and changing one's routine every two to three weeks.
It's tough to change a person's habits overnight, he says, but if they're persistent and take one step at a time, they'll see results. They should also set short-term goals and follow them through.
"Change a few bad habits with good habits; it's that simple," LaLanne said. For example, substitute white bread with whole-wheat bread, or start eating fresh fruit instead of sugar-laden desserts.
LaLanne said he's managed to maintain a youthful appearance and energy by drinking plenty of water and eating at least 10 raw vegetables and five pieces of fresh fruit daily.
He also eats fish, egg whites, food high in fiber, and swears by his juicer. He said others can duplicate his success if they eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol and pass on caffeine, sugar and cigarettes.
"If man makes it, don't eat it," he said, "and don't eat between meals."
By Daisy Nguyen