LOS ANGELES -- Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who inspired TV viewers to trim down, eat well and pump iron for decades before diet and exercise became a national obsession, died Sunday. He was 96.
LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia Sunday afternoon at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast, said his longtime agent, Rick Hersh.
LaLanne ate healthy and exercised every day of his life up until the end, Hersh said.
"I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for," Elaine LaLanne, LaLanne's wife of 51 years said in a written statement.
Just before he had heart valve surgery in 2009 at age 95, Jack LaLanne told his family that dying would wreck his image, his publicist Ariel Hankin said at the time.
"He was amazing," said 87-year-old former "Price is Right" host Bob Barker, who credited LaLanne's encouragement with helping him to start exercising often.
"He never lost enthusiasm for life and physical fitness," Barker said Sunday. "I saw him in about 2007, and he still looked remarkably good. He still looked like the same enthusiastic guy that he always was."
LaLanne credited a sudden interest in fitness with transforming his life as a teen, and he worked tirelessly over the next eight decades to transform others' lives, too.
"The only way you can hurt the body is not use it," LaLanne said. "Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it's never too late."
His workout show was a TV staple from the 1950s to the '70s. LaLanne and his dog, Happy, encouraged kids to wake their mothers and drag them in front of the TV set. He developed exercises that used no special equipment, just a chair and a towel.
He also founded a chain of fitness studios that bore his name.
When he turned 43 in 1957, he performed more than 1,000 push-ups in 23 minutes on the "You Asked for It" television show. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco -- handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. Ten years later, he performed a similar feat in Long Beach harbor.
He said his own daily routine usually consisted of two hours of weightlifting and an hour in the swimming pool.
"It's a lifestyle, it's something you do the rest of your life," LaLanne said. "How long are you going to keep breathing? How long do you keep eating? You just do it."
He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.