Blast From the Past Still Holds Truths for Today

By Brian Grim

Not long ago, I was walking through the library and I saw Jack LaLanne’s book Live Young Forever: 12 Steps to Optimum Health, Fitness, and Longevity on display. I couldn’t resist picking it up. I got a real kick out of him, ever since I first saw a repeat of an episode of The Jack LaLanne Show on TV a few years ago.  His enthusiasm and energy were infectious, and I was impressed by his diet and fitness advice, which seemed well ahead of its time for the 1950s. The most amazing thing about him is that, through the years, he never changed. He had the same strength, vitality, and enthusiasm for health and fitness until his death this past January at age 96.

Jack LaLanne was the “Godfather of Fitness,” probably the first of the modern fitness gurus. He opened one of the first modern health clubs in 1936 and encouraged both men and women of all ages to exercise with weights at a time when many people believed weight lifting was dangerous.  In addition to exercise, Jack promoted healthy eating: fresh fruits and vegetables (not overcooked!), whole grains, nuts, fish; and warned people to avoid sugar and processed foods.

In Live Young Forever, Jack tried to distill a lifetime of experience and knowledge on how to live a long, healthy, happy life into 12 steps. “I want you to experience the same joy of living that I have,” he explains. The steps include diet and exercise plans, of course, but they also include advice on attitude, posture, grooming, work, and relationships! The core of Jack’s message hasn’t changed, but he seems to have kept up with the times.

For instance, there’s a handy guide to fruits, vegetables, and grains, complete with nutrition information and current research about some of the various health benefits of each.  There’s plenty of useful stuff in here, although most of it isn’t anything new. And some of it is a bit superfluous, such as Jack’s advice on showering and grooming, or the superiority of wearing cotton fabrics over polyester. He was also pretty passionate about juicing, but I can’t see how it’s any better than just eating fresh fruit. Still, Jack had an evangelical zeal for wanting everyone to be the best and healthiest versions of ourselves that we can be.

Whether I learned anything new or not, I enjoyed reading Live Young Forever. Jack LaLanne got tremendous satisfaction from being able to spread his message, so I was happy to receive that message one more time. If in 50 years I have even half the zest for life that he did, I’ll be a happy man.

Brian Grim is a Customer Service Specialist for the Glenwood Branch of Howard County Library System.

He started at the Savage Branch in 2006. Brian is a sporadic fitness enthusiast, an occasional cook, and a one-time musician.



  1. Jack LaLanne is the man!It is pretty incredible how much good information he was giving out way before there were any studies to back up what he was saying. I think why juicing is so great is the volume of fruits and vegetables you can take in compared to just eating them. This gives you all of the nutrients and beneficial compounds of fruits and vegetables(although not the fiber)in much higher amounts than most people get from their daily intake. Nice post!

    • Brian Grim

      Thanks Matt! Jack is the man! Thanks for the information about juicing, that does make a lot of sense. I’d say that all the calories would worry me, but I drink about a jillion sweet teas a day so I think fruit juice would be a few steps up.

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