It is a religion with me. It’s a way of life. A religion is a way of life, isn’t it? ~Jack LaLanne on keeping fit
My wife sometimes tells me “you’re too much in your head” and I know what she means. At any one time, I’m usually reading or listening to several spirituality-related books and podcasts and recently my head has been swirling with notions of good and evil spirits, Eckhart Tolle and communicating with the dead (more on those topics in the coming weeks).
It’s at these times that I remind myself: you need balance between the mind and body. So, I rededicate myself to an exercise regimen that includes stretching, running, lifting weights and a new addition to the mix, tai chi. Which got me thinking about a story I wrote several years ago on an early poster boy for balanced living, Jack LaLanne.
Are you old enough to remember “The Jack LaLanne Show”?
As a child, I recall my mother watching the program on our black-and-white television. Jack LaLanne was a “fitness expert” before there was such a thing, and I remember him as a man in constant motion. Wearing his trademark jumpsuit, he took viewers through exercise routines that could be done right at home, using props like a kitchen chair and broomstick.
A few years ago, there was an online video clip of LaLanne (since removed due to copyright issues) and if you looked over his shoulder you could make out a list of 10 words hand-written on a whiteboard. Jack was promoting a “10-Point Self-improvement Plan” and I found his ideas as relevant today as they were 50-plus years ago.
For those who don’t remember Jack LaLanne, he’s regarded as “the founder of the modern fitness movement.” He declared that his life mission was to “help people help themselves” and he meant all people. LaLanne insisted that exercise was for everyone, regardless of your age or physical condition, and that you could engage in it anytime, anywhere, no gym required.
Importantly, what made Jack LaLanne different from the exercise gurus of his time, was that he took a 360-degree view of life. While he preached the benefits of regular exercise, he also spoke of the importance of a proper diet, having the right attitude, and the need for faith. He wanted to improve his viewers’ well-being, body, mind and spirit.Jack called his 10-point list “little secrets to help improve yourself from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head.” And he promised that if you tried it each day for a week, you would begin to see “an amazing change in the way you feel and look.” Check out the list and Jack’s advice in italics below; I’ve added a few of my own comments in standard text.
Jack LaLanne’s 10-Point Self-Improvement Plan
- Exercise. It’s the key to everything, if you don’t exercise you will look and feel old. Jack exercised daily right through his 96th year of life. The key is movement. We need to move to live, or at minimum to live longer.
- Nutrition. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and more lean meats. Cut out white flour, sugar and fried food. Be conscious of what you’re putting in your body. Jack was ahead of his time in asking us to remove processed foods from our diet.
- Positive Thinking. Think wonderful thoughts. Count your blessings. Appreciate what you have and don’t focus on what you don’t. In other words, be grateful. Give thanks.
- Good Habits. Replace a bad habit with a good one. Jack would have been puzzled by our mindless devotion to our phones. Instead of scanning your social feed for the umpteenth time, try a quick meditation session or a walk around the block.
- Grooming. Be aware of your personal appearance, the way you look, how you dress. Be a lovelier you.
- Smile. Keep a pleasant look on your face. Smiles are infectious. It’s amazing how having a smile on your face can change the way others react to you.
- Posture. Whether you’re walking, standing or sitting, pull the tummy in and keep the shoulders back. No leaning on countertops, walls or chairs.
- Help Others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Help others have a better life. When you help others, you also help yourself have a happier life.
- Relaxation. Spare 5-10 minutes each afternoon to lie down in a dark room, completely relaxed. “Recharge the human battery.” Can’t lie down in a dark room? Find a quiet place to retreat to and simply breathe. Working in NYC, I would occasionally retreat to a local church.
- Faith. You can’t do it all by yourself, have faith in Nature and God above. Put forth some effort and you’ll find that God helps those who help themselves. Amen.
It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Read these 10 points again. Consider printing them for easy access and try them tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that for a full 7 days. See if the result isn’t a happier, healthier you. A final reminder from Jack:
Try to eat better, including more fresh vegetables and fruit. Get more exercise. Let’s get back to the way nature intended us to be—happy, with a big smile on our face.
To see a vintage video clip of LaLanne, click here.