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R.I.P. Jack LaLanne, The Original Retirement Guru

Famed fitness expert Jack LaLanne died on Sunday at age 96. And while you might think of Jack LaLanne as the original fitness guru, with his TV show, line of exercise equipment, health food business, and, most important, his biceps, I think of him as the original retirement guru.

Think about it:

  • LaLanne advocated getting and staying healthy through nutrition and vigorous exercise. Both of these habits can improve your longevity and decrease the chance you'll spend lots of money on medical or long-term care bills. And LaLanne was his own best example: He was still working out two hours per day well into his 80s, after most other men are either in the grave or have one foot in it.
  • LaLanne kept working well into his 90s, promoting his various businesses and, at the age of 95, writing his book, Live Young Forever. Evidence is building from numerous scientific studies about the positive impact of continued work on both your health and longevity. The positive impact on your bank account should be obvious.
  • LaLanne also repeatedly demonstrated that he could reinvent himself, starting at age 15 when he transformed himself from a sickly boy who ate lots of junk food, to a fit and healthy young man who made better food choices and exercised vigorously. Throughout his life, LaLanne introduced many successful new products and services. Aging boomers take note: Many of us will need to reinvent ourselves, particularly if we have to continue working in our retirement years to make ends meet.
  • LaLanne always had a positive attitude toward his businesses and toward life in general. Studies of centenarians have shown that consistent personal characteristics are resiliency and resourcefulness. He had those in spades!
LaLanne also demonstrated that genes are not your destiny: His father died of a heart attack at age 50. He already knew what many of us still have to learn -- that our choices regarding exercise, nutrition, and stress management have a much greater impact on our health and longevity than our genes.

Jack LaLanne was an ordinary guy who created an extraordinary life for himself through his lifestyle choices. He should be an inspiration to us all as we learn what we need to do to make the best of our retirement years. Thanks, Jack!

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