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What We Learned From Jack LaLanne

The fitness guru's legacy can help you live longer and stronger

When Jack LaLanne passed away, we shouldn't have been surprised. After all, he was 96 years old. But we were surprised. For almost 100 years, the guy had been the picture of health, inspiring people by walking the walk. He didn't just create a workout show, he did his own routines regularly. He didn't just hawk a juice machine, he drank his fruit and veggie concoctions religiously. He was his own walking advertisement.

LaLanne lived an active lifestyle for 96 years, with his only major health condition being heart surgery—at age 95. He once said "I can't die—it'd ruin my image." We say, in this rare instance, he's wrong. We've asked our experts to extract some top-notch tips from his legacy that will help you live longer and stronger.

Lift Lighter Weights at Higher Reps
LaLanne invented early versions of the resistance machines you seen in gyms everywhere, and was known to perform his exercises until he experienced muscle fatigue, lifting until he could no longer do another rep. According to researchers from McMaster University, lifting to muscle fatigue with lighter weights is as effective as lifting with heavy weights—and can be especially beneficial as you age.

"The main reason you can't lift heavy all of your life is that it hurts! Your ability to recover is compromised as you age. So lift lighter, but to fatigue and [you'll have] less damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints, while still [experiencing effective] muscle growth," says study author Stuart M. Phillips, Ph.D. FACN, FACSM Professor & Associate Chair Graduate Studies Department of Kinesiology.

Focus on Fruits and Vegetables
According to a New York Times story, LaLanne's diet consisted mostly of raw fruits and veggies, egg whites and fatty fishes like salmon, a take on the Mediterranean diet. Wise choice, says Lisa Tartamella, R.D, a sports nutritionist at Yale University.

"Adopting a Mediterranean eating style, which emphasizes plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, monounsaturated fats, and lean protein from primarily fish rather than meat and poultry may have many health benefits, like reducing the risk for heart disease and some cancers, including those of the stomach, skin and colon," says Tartamella.

However, she warns that juicing shouldn't replace the whole versions of your foods, although they are a handy way to sneak in extra vitamins on-the-go. "Whole fruits and vegetables offer the added benefit of fiber, which has a long list of health benefits from aiding digestion, reducing the risk of cancer (particularly colon cancer), improving blood sugar management, reducing the risk of heart disease (by helping to lower cholesterol levels) and aiding weight loss efforts," says Tartamella. Think about it—would you eat five apples in five seconds? Probably not, but you'd definitely down those calories with ease in juice form.

Work for Yourself
From his TV show to his juicers to his gyms, LaLanne was an entrepreneur from the start. And while it wasn't always easy going—he was called a "charlatan" early on—he probably reaped benefits from being without a boss. According to Pew research, self-employed workers are significantly happier than 9-5ers. Not a good time to go out on your own? Try to get on some projects that you can self-direct.

Have a Happy Wife and Happy Life
Elaine LaLanne and Jack were pretty much inseparable for 51 years of marriage—and they seemed happy, healthy and successful, together.

"It's no surprise that your most important relationship would have that effect. An added benefit of marriage is when you know you have one partner who you can always turn to, it allows you to let down your guard. It frees a man up to be able to achieve things in other areas," say Scott Haltzman, M.D. and author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men.

LaLanne also boasted about having sex regularly, and Haltzman says that's a smart strategy for longevity, too. "It burns off calories, increases your heart rate and gets blood flowing throughout your body," says Haltzman.

Related articles:

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Better Habits, Better Results

Get Heart Healthy by Lifting Weights

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